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Methamphetamine, an illegal drug that sends the body into overdrive, is surging through the United States. Federal drug data provided exclusively to NPR show seizures of meth by authorities have spiked, rising 142% between 2017 and 2018.

This Dec. 4, 2017, file photo shows the Pfizer company logo at the company's headquarters in New York.
Richard Drew / AP Photo

This is a developing story and may be updated.

Mylan Pharmaceuticals and a division of Pfizer have announced a deal that will create a new pharmaceutical company expected to bring in $19 billion-$20 billion in annual revenue. 

According to a news release, Mylan and Upjohn, the Pfizer subsidiary, hosted a Monday morning conference call with investors.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, across Appalachian coal country, people are looking for productive ways to reuse land damaged by surface mining. A 2018 study found that an area roughly the size of Delaware has been mined over the years. The Ohio Valley ReSource’s Liam Niemeyer reports that some researchers see promise in fast-growing grass that can help restore damaged lands and maybe help both the economy and environment.

Brittany Patterson / WVPB

A federal public health agency is launching a study this fall that will evaluate Berkeley County residents’ exposure to the PFAS group of chemicals, which includes PFOA, or C8.

 

Natural gas pipe for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline sits in a yard Feb. 27, 2019, near Morgantown, W.Va.
Larry Dowling / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A federal court has thrown out two key permits for the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

U.S. 4th Circuit Court Chief Judge Robert Gregory said in an opinion issued Friday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service didn't adhere to its mandate to protect endangered species when it fast-tracked re-issuing two permits to the natural gas project proposed to go through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.

Blackjewel coal mine
Mead Gruver / AP Photo

 

A federal bankruptcy judge has approved a plan by West Virginia-based Blackjewel LLC to begin the sale of its coal mines and other assets. 

At the heart of the proposal, Tennessee-based Contura Energy Inc. will be the “Stalking Horse Purchaser,” or initial bidder, for three of Blackjewel’s surface mines. 

Caitlin Tan / WVPB

For many people in Appalachia, the lakes, rivers and creeks are the first places we swam, played in the water or caught crawdads. For many adults, our waterways are some of the best places to get outdoors and cool off in the summer. We have whitewater rafting, swimming, boating and even scuba diving to choose from (yes, scuba diving, you read that right.)  


Power Plant: How Grass Might Generate Fuel, Help Fix Damaged Mine Lands

Jul 26, 2019
West Virginia University Professor Jeff Skousen among giant miscanthus on an old mine site.
Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

Down bumpy back roads deep in central West Virginia, a flat, bright green pasture opens up among the rolling hills of coffee-colored trees.

Wildflowers and butterflies dot the pasture, but West Virginia University Professor Jeff Skousen is here for something else that stands above the rest of the Appalachian scenery – literally.

Thick stalks of green-yellowish grass reach up 10 feet into the air like a beanstalk out of a fairy tale, and Skousen is dwarfed by it.

Caitlin Tan / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

It is a hot, muggy day along the Monongahela river. Zoma Archambault is standing on a small, sandy beach about 10 minutes from Morgantown. It is one of the few along the river, as much of it is covered in thick brush and mud.

The beach used to be an informal camp spot. Zoma found it abandoned, with trash covering the ground in every direction. It is almost all picked up now, aside from some muddy clothes, a couple hypodermic needles and roof shingles.

Courtesy of the Artist

Larry Groce will be leading the Mountain Stage band, staff and crew north to Elkins, W.Va. for the sixth time to help close out the Augusta Heritage Festival.

Eric Douglas / WVPB

There was a time that life along the river revolved around riverboats. In the 19th century, the only way to get supplies or mail was the river. To keep the history of the river alive, a community of enthusiasts in West Virginia and Ohio maintain riverboats for their personal use. 

The original riverboats were called “sternwheelers.” The stern is the back of the boat, so these riverboats had a paddlewheel that provided thrust to propel the boat up and down the river. 

Eric Douglas / WVPB

At any given time on weekends during the summer months, there are likely dozens of divers exploring the world beneath the waves at Summersville Lake in Nicholas County, West Virginia. Just watch for their bubbles on the surface.

It may come as a surprise that a lake known for fishing, camping and boating, is also a favorite destination for divers. They come to the lake to take classes, practice their diving skills and just have fun in the water. 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we take a look at what Inside Appalachia has in store for us this weekend. The show explores explore some of the region’s unique aquatic destinations -- on the water, and beneath it.

About 150,000 people commercially raft a West Virginia river each year -- most on the New and Gauley rivers, which go through Fayetteville. Raft guides take most of those people down the river – professionals who are trained to know water, but also to know people.

The doors open wide, you enter, and they close behind you. As the elevator begins its ascent, you realize it's just you and one other person taking this ride. The silence soon grows uncomfortable.

Pop quiz. What's your go-to move?

A) Stare at your shoes.

B) Pull out your cellphone.

C) Make brief eye contact.

D) Initiate chitchat.

If your answer was B, you're like far too many of us, eyes glued to our phones, attention focused on the digital world.

Caitlin Tan / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Just about any search on Google for “best white water rafting” includes West Virginia. Around 150,000 people commercially raft a West Virginia river each year, mostly on the New River and Gauley River, which are near Fayetteville, West Virginia. At one point there were just less than 30 rafting companies in the area. Today, they have consolidated into six adventure businesses. 

How a Proposed SNAP Eligibility Revision Could Affect Ohio Valley Recipients

Jul 25, 2019

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week a proposal to tighten the rules on who qualifies for food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). USDA estimates more than three million people across the country would lose SNAP benefits in an effort to prevent fraud. Anti-hunger advocates in the Ohio Valley say the more than two million people in the region who use the benefits would be impacted.

Retired Coal Miners on Capitol Hill Push for a Fix to Pension System

Jul 25, 2019
Sam Ball, a retired coal miner from Virginia, testified before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.
House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources

A rush of retired coal miners and advocates were in Washington this week, pushing members of Congress to protect their pensions.

About 40 members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) arrived on Capitol Hill Tuesday, July 23, to meet with lawmakers and voice their concerns during a congressional hearing Wednesday.

Led by production from its Powder River Basin, Wyoming produces 40 percent of U.S. coal.
U.S. Geological Survey

A buyer for some of bankrupt coal company Blackjewel’s mines has emerged. 

In a court filing Thursday, July 25, the West Virginia-based company said Contura Energy Inc., which operates both surface and underground coal mines across Appalachia, had agreed to be a “Stalking Horse Purchaser” or initial bidder for three of the company’s surface mines. 

My Friend From Camp

Jul 25, 2019
Albert Melise and Mitch Hanley

Two men, one a British citizen of Pakistani heritage, and the other a former housing police officer in the Boston area, were unlikely to meet, until the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001. But after the Bush Administration launched the War on Terror, Moazzam Begg was detained and held at the U.S. Detention Camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where Albert Melise was a guard. You can’t get much more Us & Them than that.

Adobe Stock images / WVPB illustration

West Virginia’s attorney general says state consumers affected by an Equifax data breach last year can now file claims.

Patrick Morrisey says in a news release the claims process is open for a $425 million national settlement along with a separate $2.4 million settlement reached in a lawsuit filed by Morrisey’s office. The breach affected about 730,000 West Virginia residents.

Destiny Judy/The Inter-Mountain

West Virginia’s congressional delegation is asking the president to authorize federal disaster relief funds after flash flooding damaged the state’s eastern highlands late last month.

U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito joined U.S. Reps. David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Carol Miller in a joint statement Wednesday asking for the federal disaster declaration.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, similar to West Virginia, Ohio has a law that can force landowners to lease their underground mineral rights to energy companies. The Allegheny Front’s Julie Grant takes a closer look at what happens when people there say no to fracking. It's the latest story in The Allegheny Front's series, Who’s Listening?

Brian Blauser/ Mountain Stage

Hear one of music's most distinct vocalists perform songs from her new album in this week's encore episode of Mountain Stage, recorded at the Augusta Heritage Festival in Elkins, W.Va. in 2018.

In an about-face, the Pennsylvania school district that threatened to place children in foster care over past-due cafeteria bills is now accepting donations following its initial rejection of those who offered help, a decision that left many observers puzzled.

Court Tosses Lawsuit in 1968 Farmington Mine Explosion

Jul 24, 2019
In this Nov. 21, 1968, file photo, smoke pours from the burning Llewellyn portal of the Mountaineer Coal Co., where 78 miners are trapped near Farmington, W.Va.
AP file photo

A federal appeals court has thrown out a lawsuit filed by the families of 78 men who were killed in a 1968 mine explosion in West Virginia.

The ruling Wednesday by the 4th U.S. Circuit Appeals affirms a 2017 ruling by a federal judge.

Trump Celebrates at W.Va. Fundraiser after Mueller Hearings

Jul 24, 2019
President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Air Force One at Wheeling, W.Va., Wednesday, July 24, 2019.
Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press

A triumphant President Donald Trump celebrated Wednesday evening after Robert Mueller’s testimony, telling attendees at a closed-door fundraiser in West Virginia that the former special counsel’s appearance was a dud.

Trump, who arrived at the fundraiser energized and excited, told a crowd at the WesBanco Arena that Mueller’s testimony was nothing more than a miserable effort by Democrats to discredit him, West Virginia Senate President Mitch Carmichael told The Associated Press.

This van is used by the JCESA to transport deceased who are non-medical examiner cases and who have no prior death arrangements. JCESA purchased this van in 2017 to tackle an increase in calls and manage a loss in local resources.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

One of the angles of the opioid epidemic we don’t often hear about is what happens to the bodies of those who become overtaken by addiction. West Virginia Public Broadcasting looks at one group under strain – the state’s forensic pathologists who are charged with performing autopsies.

We also explore one West Virginia community’s efforts to efficiently transport the dead.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, one of the aspects of the opioid epidemic we don’t often hear about is what happens to the bodies of those who become overtaken by addiction. This morning, Liz McCormick takes a look at one group under strain -- the state’s forensic pathologists who are charged with performing autopsies.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in an interview Tuesday that she does not favor proposals put forth by some Democratic presidential candidates who have advocated changing the number of Supreme Court justices if the Democrats win the presidency.

Ginsburg, who got herself in trouble criticizing candidate Donald Trump in 2016, this time was critical not of any particular Democratic contender, but of their proposals to offset President Trump's two conservative appointments to the court.

Mackie Branham views a lung X-ray with Dr. James Brandon Crum, who was among the first physicians to note an uptick in black lung diagnoses
Howard Berkes / NPR

Democratic members of Congress introduced legislation Tuesday to provide additional funding for coal miners suffering from black lung. The bills came as a contingent of Appalachian miners afflicted with the disease lobbied lawmakers for more support. 

“It doesn’t only take your health. It takes your identity,” Barry Johnson said of the disease. Johnson is a fourth-generation coal miner from Letcher County, Kentucky, who made the trip to Washington with his oxygen tank in tow. 

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