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Are pregnant women heeding the warning not to smoke? It turns out, more than 25 percent of pregnant women in West Virginia from 2008 to 2011 said they smoked during their pregnancy. Federal data and a state health organization say pregnant West Virginia women continue to smoke at the highest recorded rates in the nation. West Virginia Kids Count released the data this week, which shows that every year but one from 2000 to 2011, more than a quarter of West Virginia mothers surveyed said they smoked in the last three months of their pregnancy.
Enrollment at an area private school is higher than it's ever been. The University of Charleston has more than 2,100 students signed up this semeseter, which is an all-time high for the school. The university says it's seen an enrollment increase of 36 percent over the past two years. Last year, UC took over Mountain State University campuses in Beckley and Martinsburg. That followed the revocation of Mountain State's accreditation because of a series of leadership problems. The Charleston Gazette says that the university's full-time student enrollment last year was then the second highest in UC's 125-year history.
A Martinsburg doctor already facing a disciplinary hearing by a state medical board has been indicted on federal charges that she illegally prescribed prescription painkillers. Dr. Tressie Montene Duffy has been indicted on 100 felony counts of aiding and abetting the distribution of four controlled substances from April 2010 to February 2012, according to a U.S. Attorney. She's the CEO and owner West Virginia Weight and Wellness Inc. and she's accused of signing blank prescription orders, then allowing employees to issue 157 of them to 96 patients without being seen by a physician. Duffy faces a hearing Nov. 17-19 before the state Board of Medicine in Charleston over her medical license.
Charleston police have their man. 36-year old James Arthur Smith from California has been arrested in connection with three separate breaking and enterings at local bars. Police say he broke into Boulevard Tavern, Dome Bar and Vino’s and took a safe from each spot. He was taken to South Central Regional Jail and will be extradicted to Ohio for sentencing there on other crimes.
The state Racing Commission could request legislation to drop the number of days racetracks have to hold live races under law. The Charleston Gazette says the commission this week talked about reducing the required number of racing days to 185 at the state's four racetracks. Tracks face a 10 percent cut in state subsidies this budget year. Money from wagering is also on the decline. Racing Commissioner Bill Phillips said it's clear that racing purses have dropped too much to maintain a full racing calendar. A vote on a resolution will likely come at the commission's Oct. 14 meeting.
The son of a well-known Charleston reverend has been arrested on a drug-related charge. WCHSTV reports 30-year old Matthew J. Watts was arrested for allegedly selling a quantity of suspected heroin. His father, the Rev. Matthew Watts is a senior pastor at Grace Bible Church, and he's an active community leader who works against violence and drugs on the West Side.
Several parents have expressed their concerns about crime to the St. Albans City Council. The Charleston Gazette reports that residents raised concerns this week, about a week after the shooting death of 20-year-old Micah Burdette, whose body was found in St. Albans City Park. Police have charged 24-year-old Michael Benbow of Hendersonvile, North Carolina, with first-degree murder. Carey Downs told the council that 15 boys who were playing basketball in front of her house recently took refuge in her living room after a well-known criminal came walking down the street. Mayor Dick Callaway and council member Kevin Pennington urged the parents to become more active with the city's drug task force and various neighborhood watch programs.
A lawsuit against a water company, chemical producer, airport and others over a January chemical spill won't get a hearing for another year. The consolidated lawsuit that targets West Virginia American Water, Eastman Chemical, Yeager Airport and others has a hearing for a motion on class certification on Sept. 25, 2015. Fourteen businesses and individuals affected by a chemical spill sued numerous companies and executives after the Freedom Industries spill in January. U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Charleston is handling legal action against Freedom through a claims process. The judge also set dates for various conferences, depositions and disclosure deadlines.
West Virginia officials are becoming increasingly concerned about a group called "sovereign citizen" that rejects taxes and laws. The Charleston Gazette says state and federal authorities sent a letter earlier this year to local law enforcement officials about the group's increasing presence in West Virginia. Thom Kirk, director of the West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center, says those numbers could be growing because officials are now more aware of the group and are conducting additional training on the subject. A 2014 study by a national terrorism group listed sovereign citizens as the nation's number one potential terrorist threat. In West Virginia, there are 19 members registered with the website of the National Liberty Alliance, a sovereign citizens group.
A West Virginia sawmill that serves the coal industry is facing an $85,000 in federal penalties for what the government says is a workplace that puts its workers at risk of serious injuries. OSHA said Monday the proposed penalties follow two investigations and a safety inspection at Wayne Lumber and Mulch Inc., and that the Wayne mill continues to expose its 14 workers to "willful, repeat and serious safety and health hazards..." OSHA says the mill has 15 business days to correct the alleged violations or contest them.