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Unemployment Rate Higher Than National Average

West Virginia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell slightly to 6.5 percent in October.
WorkForce West Virginia says that rate translates to 51,900 unemployed in the state, up 2,300 from a year ago. The state's unemployment rate tops the national jobless rate, which was 5.8 percent last month. Employment gains were reported in mining and logging, construction, manufacturing, trade, transportation and utilities, financial activities, and education and health services. Declines were reported in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, government and other services.

Memorial Service Planned for WVU Fraternity Member

West Virginia University had planned to provide transportation to the funeral of a student in Buffalo, New York today, but the weather has changed that. A lake-effect storm dumped 6-feet of snow in the Buffalo area, and instead of sending a bus to the funeral the school says it will hold a memorial service for 18-year old freshman Nolan Burch at Trinity Eposcopal Church in Morgantown this morning at 10am. Burch died last Friday after police said he was found unconscious and not breathing at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house. Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston confirmed the incident was alcohol-related. WVU has ordered a halt to all activities at its fraternities and sororities.

Nitro Considers Sales Tax Increase

After Nitro was accepted into the Home Rule program in October, a possible one percent sales tax was a priority. A public hearing was held Tuesday to give residents the chance to voice an opinion about whether or not to implement one. The Nitro Council could vote now to send the one percent sales tax proposal to the Home Rule Board, which meets December 1st. If the board approves, the one percent sales tax could go into effect in Nitro next July, and there are reports it could generate a million dollars in sales tax revenue per year.

New Poetry Contest Announced for High School Students

High school students across West Virginia have the chance to participate in a poetry competition that could land them a trip to the nation's capital. The "Poetry Out Loud" contest features students memorizing and reciting poetry for an audience, and helps students develop public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage. Dec. 1 is the deadline to register with the state Division of Culture and History. The competition begins at the school level, with winners advancing to the March state competition in Charleston. Winners from each state and U.S. territory compete at the national finals in Washington next April. The state champion receives $200 and a trip to the national finals. Their school also receives $500 to purchase poetry books.

Gov. To Hold Holiday Parites At The Culture Center

About 5,600 West Virginians have been invited to attend the governor's annual holiday parties. The guest list includes constituents, public officials and journalists. The invitation-only events will be held Dec. 5 and Dec. 6 at the Culture Center in Charleston. There also will be tours of the Governor's Mansion. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and first lady Joanne Tomblin moved the parties from the mansion to the Culture Center last year. Tomblin previously had held the parties in a 2,000-square-foot rented tent on the mansion's grounds.

Fracking Approved At George Washington National Forest

Fracking will be allowed in parts of the 1.1-million-acre George Washington National Forest. The US Forest Service originally planned to ban fracking in the forest, but energy companies cried foul after a draft of the plan was released in 2011. It would have been the first outright ban on the practice in a national forest. A representative with the Ag Department says fracking is already allowed at other national forests throughout the country, and the forest service didn't want to change the policy.

Suit Against Former Mingo Judge Goes to Trial

A lawsuit against former Mingo County Circuit Court Judge Michael Thornsbury is scheduled to go to trial today. Robert Woodruff's federal lawsuit alleges malicious prosecution, false arrest and wrongful imprisonment. Thornsbury was indicted last year on charges of trying to frame Woodruff for several crimes. The charges were later dismissed in exchange for Thornsbury's guilty plea in a separate case involving a scheme to protect the late Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum. Thornsbury is serving a 50-month sentence in a federal prison in Florida. The Charleston Gazette reports Thornsbury has been taken to the South Central Regional Jail and that settlement talks are continuing. A lawsuit filed against Thornsbury by Woodruff's wife is pending in Kanawha County Circuit Court.

Elk Restoration Push Continues

A proposed restoration of West Virginia's elk population is drawing support from the public. The Division of Natural Resources held the first of a series of public meetings on the plan last week at Chief Logan State Park. DNR wildlife chief Curtis Taylor tells The Register-Herald that the meeting drew about 175 people from 15 counties. He says the crowd was overwhelmingly in favor of the project. West Virginia's last native elk was killed around 1875. Taylor says the state hopes to bring elk from nieghboring Kentucky to restore the state's herd. He says some elk already are crossing the border. Most are young males that return to Kentucky if they can't find food or companionship.

Agility Tests Coming Next Month for the DNR Officers

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources will conduct physical agility tests next month for natural resources police officer candidates. The DNR says applicants should report to the lobby of the South Charleston Community Center either on Dec. 5 at 8 a.m. or Dec. 6 at 9 a.m. Walk-on candidates will be accepted. The three-part test includes a 37.5-yard swim, push-ups and sit-ups, and a 1.5-mile run. Candidates also must pass a written examination. The written examination will be administered at the DNR's headquarters by the West Virginia Department of Personnel after the physicial agility test.

Bus Ridership is Up

A new bus service between Charleston and Morgantown is becoming a popular choice for travelers. Cindy Fish with the state Division of Transit says ridership on the I-Ride 79 bus service is growing daily. In October, 763 passengers, or about 25 per day, rode the buses. Fish tells The State Journal that the bus service is seeing a lot of repeat business. The Division of Public Transit launched the I-Ride 79 service on July 1. The service includes stops in Clendenin, Flatwoods, Weston, Clarksburg and Fairmont. Baron Bus Lines operates the buses for the state. Barons vice president John Goebel tells the newspaper that the service attracts a diverse group of riders, including college students and senior citizens.

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