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ZLATI Meyer of the Detroit Free Press used the occasion of the water crisis to make an incest joke. After state residents rightly complained, she and her publisher apologized profusely and sincerely for her remark.

Jeff Wattrick of Deadline Detroit took umbrage with the apology.

"The outrage over Meyer's tweet is pure smarm. It's easier, I suppose, to attack a symbol (a joke about incest being rampant in impoverished rural communities) than to address the enormity of a substantive, real problem (rural poverty)," Wattrick wrote.

He cited statistics that show West Virginia has a high infant mortality rate, high rate of out-of-wedlock births and high poverty rate. In every category he mentioned, Detroit fares worse.

n The state's infant mortality rate is 8.1 per 1,000 live births. Detroit's is 13.5.

n 44 percent of the state's children are born out of wedlock. In Detroit, it's 79 percent.

n The state's poverty rate is 15.1 percent. Detroit's is 32.5 percent.

West Virginians are working diligently on reducing poverty and improving the health of their children. Detroiters are as well. Rural poverty does not excuse urban bigotry.  

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WHILE 15 percent of West Virginians struggled to live without water contaminated by  4-methylcyclohexane methanol, a federal judge in Sacramento allowed a lawsuit to go forward that seeks to use the Clean Water Act to ban Fourth of July and Labor Day fireworks over Lake Tahoe.

Joseph and Joan Truxler of Zephyr Cove along the lake say the Lake Tahoe  Visitors Authority and Pyro Spectaculars North Inc. are polluting the lake twice a year with debris.

To be sure the paper and gunpowder from the fireworks do have an impact on the lake. But so do people who visit the area each year and eventually move there, as the Truxlers did.

We need to prioritize efforts to protect the environment. West Virginians gladly will trade the 4-methylcyclohexane methanol-tainted water for whatever fireworks pollution the Truxlers suffer twice a year.

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STATE Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick told legislators this week that he is trying to lure pork companies to Southern West Virginia.

But state Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, sees a bigger agricultural opportunity for West Virginia: marijuana. He may be on to something.

"We may never legalize marijuana in West Virginia, but maybe the potential exists for us to export the crop," Barnes said.

Pot may have better potential for the state than pork. As a generation of people who smoked pot in their youth assume political leadership, states slowly are repealing their prohibitions on cannabis.

Washington, D.C., is poised to become the next political entity to legalize pot. Why not offer them Mountaineer Marijuana?

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THE Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise project — Ascent — in the Parkersburg area quietly took another step forward when the Brazilian company behind the plan acquired the property from the Saudi Arabian company that owned the site, the Parkersburg News and Sentinel reported.

The site is the old Borg-Warner plastics site that SABIC now operates. In selling the land for $10,910,890, company officials announced the plant will close in 2015, ending 130 jobs.

But the hope is that the end of that one chemical plant will lead to the birth of three more petro-chemical plants as well as a cracker, which turns natural gas from Marcellus shale and other sources into a feedstock for plastics plants.

There are plenty of regulatory, financial and other hurdles ahead, but this property sale is an encouraging sign of progress.


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