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College Football Coaches Federation Attempts to Quiet the Coaching Search Chaos*

The College Football Coaches Federation (CFCF)** announced Wednesday a series of emergency steps designed to bring greater stability to the coaching profession.

“The last few days have been chaotic,” said CFCF president Harvey “Lefty” Hightower.*** “We are concerned about the increased scrutiny and stress level placed upon our member coaches. Therefore, going forward, all member schools and coaches will be required to follow these emergency guidelines.”

Hightower said Power Five football coaches always find discussions of salary to be awkward for them, so in the future, member schools will be required to provide a base 10-year, $100-million contract when any current contract expires.

“This way coaches and schools can avoid a virulent strain of Excessive Wealth Disorder,” Hightower said.  “They can simply say they are following the rules.”

The guidelines also impact how coaching changes will be announced. “There is so much misinformation that gets out there,” said Hightower. Under the new guidelines, all coaching change announcements will be divided equally among Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports, Brett McMurphy of ESPN and Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports.

(Thamel, McMurphy and Dodd have all agreed that the names of Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell, Iowa State coach Matt Campbell and Oregon coach Mario Cristobal shall be included in any speculative stories about coaching vacancies.)

Harvey “Lefty” Hightower.**** (Image Credit: Getty Images/NADOFOTOS)

The CFCF also wants to address the concerns of student athletes who feel as though their coach is abandoning them.  The new guidelines require that each coach, upon announcing their departure, must spend at least two (2) minutes addressing his players.

The guidelines say the content is up to the coach, but it is suggested that the coach express how much they love the players and the school, that the decision has nothing to do with the money, and that it was the hardest decision they have ever made.

“As we have said many times, the student athlete is our number one priority,” Hightower said.

In the future, a coach will not be required to give fact-based answers when questioned by the press about if he is interested in another job. The guidelines state that if such circumstance arises, a coach may say “no,” and the definition of “no” shall mean “no” unless it means “yes.”

(A subsection of that guideline also permits a coach to personally berate any reporter who poses the question.)

Hightower said special attention was given to the many benefits that a college football coach may receive as an enticement to change jobs. “This has gotten out of control,” said Hightower, citing the report that new USC coach Lincoln Riley will have access to a private jet for him and his family 24/7.

“We really felt we needed to make a statement here,” Hightower said. “A private plane flight must be scheduled at least two-hours in advance and no more than six family members may fly at any one time.”

Finally, the guidelines address the thorny issue of buyouts. “Going forward, schools will be required to pay the buyout at least two years before the coach is fired,” he said.  “That way both the schools and the coaches can avoid any additional embarrassment when a coach is dismissed.”

There are critics of the new guidelines, with some suggesting they are excessively generous and too deferential to coaches.

Hightower pushed back on the criticism, adding that several recommendations were rejected for those very reasons.

“For example, on a narrow vote we defeated a proposal that required all staff at football facilities to avoid direct eye contact with the head coach, and we tabled a motion that would have redirected low-income student scholarship money toward a fund to pay for a statue of the head coach,” he said.

Hightower added that coaching college football is an honored profession, one where the health and welfare of the student athlete is paramount, and the integrity of the institution must be protected.

“We believe these guidelines demonstrate exactly where are priorities lie.”*****

*(Editor’s note: None of this is true.)

**(Editor’s note: There is no such organization.)

***(Editor’s note: Not a real person.)

****(Editor’s note: Not really.)

*****(Editor’s note: Maybe this isn’t too far fetched after all.)

 

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Federal judge blocks vaccine mandate affecting health care workers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal judge on Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction against a mandate requiring health care workers to get vaccinated for the coronavirus.

West Virginia was one of 14 states to challenge the policy, which would have gone into effect on Monday and impacted more than 17 million workers.

U.S. Judge Terry Doughty of the U.S. District Court for Louisiana’s Western District blocked the mandate, citing limitations to the executive branch’s power.

“If human nature and history teach anything, it is that civil liberties face grave risks when governments proclaim indefinite states of emergency,” Doughty wrote.

“During a pandemic such as this one, it is even more important to safeguard the separation of powers set forth in our Constitution to avoid erosion of our liberties. Because the Plaintiff States have satisfied all four elements required for a preliminary injunction to issue, this Court has determined that a preliminary injunction should issue against the Government Defendants.”

Doughty, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, began serving on the district court in March 2018. He previously served as a judge with the 5th Judicial District of the Louisiana District Courts system.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the regulation on Nov. 4; workers of facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid would have been required to get at least their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Dec. 6 and a second dose by Jan. 4.

According to the agency, the requirement would have affected more than 17 million health care workers and around 76,000 providers.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said the mandate would have posed a risk to the health care industry as well as patient well-being; he noted a shortage of medical and nursing home workers would have worsened under the policy.

“We are pleased that the court made a sensible decision and sided with individual freedoms for health care workers,” he said. “Our group has successfully stopped this mandate from taking effect for the time being, and we believe the mandate will be struck down permanently moving forward.”

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry led the challenge. Officials with Montana, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Kentucky and Ohio joined the legal challenge.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit would consider an appeal to the preliminary injunction. Judges earlier this month halted a federal regulation that businesses with 100 or more workers require employees to be vaccinated by Jan. 4. Unvaccinated workers would have to have to test negative for the coronavirus at least once a week.

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West Virginia clamps down on Bellarmine in second half to pull away for 74-55 victory

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia was efficient offensively for most of Tuesday’s contest against Bellarmine.

But it was the Mountaineers’ defense after halftime that allowed them to pull away from the Knights and claim a comfortable 74-55 victory before 9,523 at the Coliseum.

“Defensively, we’re getting better,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins after earning career win No. 906. “That’s hard stuff to guard.”

The win was the third straight for West Virginia, which improved to 6-1 ahead of Saturday’s matchup with Radford — the third of five consecutive home games.

WVU limited Bellarmine (2-6) to 25 second-half points, 16 of which were scored over the final 7:21, with the win well in hand for Huggins’ team by that point.

Ten of Bellarmine’s 14 turnovers came over the final 20 minutes, when the Mountaineers ball pressure proved more effective.

After taking a 37-30 lead into halftime, the Mountaineers created separation early in the second half to lead by double digits for the final 17:43.

The Knights were held without a field goal for the first 4 minutes after halftime before CJ Fleming’s layup cut their deficit to 45-33.

WVU led 54-39 with inside 11 minutes remaining, before it scored 11 straight points over a stretch of 3:27 to put the game out of reach.

That surge featured Pauly Paulicap’s dunk in transition, a 3-pointer from Sean McNeil, and close-range baskets from Isaiah Cottrell, Malik Curry and Jalen Bridges.

“Our ball movement got better in the second half,” Huggins said. “We were trying to dribble too much. When they’re playing Pack Line, which we’re going to end up playing against [more], we need to learn to pass the ball. Our attempts to pass it got better.”

Over the Mountaineers’ 11-0 spurt, Bellarmine missed its three field-goal attempts and had five turnovers.

“We had some conversations at halftime and figured some things out,” McNeil said. “We were somewhat flat in the first half. We picked things up on the defensive end and didn’t give up as many offensive rebounds in the second half, which led to more opportunities for us and more buckets.”

WVU led 71-43 after a Kobe Johnson 3-pointer, before the Knights closed the contest on a 12-3 spurt over the final 5:27 after Huggins had gone deep into his bench.

“They have to understand that in this program, you earn playing time, earn positions and you’re not handed them,” Huggins said. “We had some guys who I thought were really getting better in practice and significantly better as practice went along and their performance, to say it was disappointing is probably not strong enough.”

West Virginia was in front for more than 18 minutes of the first half, though never by more than 10 points. The lead was 10 on three separate occasions — 28-18 after a Taz Sherman triple, 33-23 following Sherman’s two free throws and 35-25 on a Paulicap putback dunk.

Bellarmine answered with the next five points, before Bridges scored on a short jumper to send the Mountaineers into the break with the seven-point lead.

West Virginia’s full court press hardly seemed to bother Bellarmine in the opening half. Although the Knights made only 12-of-32 shots through 20 minutes, they hung around in large part by turning it over only four times, giving WVU just 2 points off those miscues through halftime.

The Mountaineers did make 16-of-27 field-goal attempts to shoot nearly 60 percent in the opening half.

McNeil, who started college at Bellarmine when it was still a Division II program but didn’t make it there a week and moved on, admitted the game against the Knights carried extra significance to him. He scored 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting.

“I was definitely ready for this one,” McNeil said. “I wanted this one bad, but I wasn’t trying to force from the beginning. I had two of them drop early and tried to get it going from there.

“You always look back and think about where you came from and you never try to forget where you came from. They’ve done big things there. Credit to them. That goes to [Bellarmine head coach Scott Davenport], his record there and how much he wins. I think about how it could’ve been different. My mom and dad weren’t very pleased with me when I left there within 48 hours, but I always tell them now I knew it’d work out.”

Sherman had a game-high 18 points and made 7-of-12 shots. Sherman has been the game’s high scroer in five of the Mountaineers’ seven contests.

“Offensively, we still probably rely on Taz too much,” Huggins said. “I’m all for him getting 25 or 30 a game, but we need some other guys to step up and score a little bit more for us. We’re starting to get that.”

Curry scored nine off the bench, while Bridges added eight points and added a game-high nine rebounds.

“I came into today’s game trying to play with more energy,” Bridges said. [Last Friday] against Eastern Kentucky, we kind of came out flat. I took it upon myself to be active and try to get every rebound I possibly could.”

West Virginia out-rebounded Bellarmine 41-31 thanks in large part to an 18-12 edge in offensive boards.

Dylan Penn led the Knights with 16 points, five assists and five steals. Curt Hopf contributed 12 points and eight rebounds in the loss, while Fleming and Juston Betz scored 10 apiece as the aforementioned quartet combined for all but seven of the Knights’ points.

(Bob Huggins postgame press conference)

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PSC holding hearing Wednesday on West Virginia American Water proposed rate changes

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Public Service Commission will hold a public comment hearing Wednesday in Bluefield regarding West Virginia American Water Company’s proposed rate increases for water and sewer services.

The water company previously filed a request for a 26.1% rate increase for water services, in which the new money will go toward improving its system in 19 counties. The average customer will see monthly payments increase by $9.56.

According to West Virginia American Water, it has 167,000 in all or parts of the impacted counties.

The company has also proposed a 31% increase in sewer rates for 1,100 customers in Fayette County.

The hearing will begin at 4 p.m. at Bluefield City Hall.

The commission is expected to make a decision in February.

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DataRobot plans open house, hiring event for Wednesday

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — DataRobot will hold a public open house and hiring event Wednesday at the Erickson Alumni Center in Morgantown.

The Boston-based artificial intelligence company opened a Morgantown office in June through a partnership with West Virginia University and the institution’s John Chambers College of Business and Economics.

“A lot has happened over the past couple months, we’re so excited to be here,” Sally Embrey, the company’s vice president of public health and health technologies, said on Tuesday’s “MetroNews Talkline” said. “We’ve hired over 20 individuals across the state — all very high paying six-figure jobs — and we’ve brought in a lot of interns.”

DataRobot utilizes a combination of software that automates many tasks that data scientists previously had to do manually. Retail stores use artificial intelligence for inventory forecasting, others can use the technology to analyze the past to streamline the future of a task.

Highlights of the day will include information about how the state Joint Interagency Task Force has used artificial intelligence during the coronavirus pandemic and how the technology can be used in regards to the volumes of data. Other presentations and demonstrations are planned throughout the day.

By using artificial intelligence, scientists are able to evaluate all the available data related to a particular problem, process or task. Teams can use the analysis in more options than a conventional data review can offer.

“Our biggest limitation when it comes to that data is really processing it and analyzing it and using it to predict,” Embrey said. “That’s where AI comes in. It’s being able to harness all the big data out in the world and make predictions about the future.

“We also want to make sure anyone can use the power of AI, and that’s why we talk about democratizing AI,” she added. “How do we make sure everyone can understand what machine learning is and put it at their fingertips.”

According to Embrey, the talent pool in West Virginia is very impressive. The company is looking for financial professionals and software engineers, and DataRobot is also offering a variety of internships.

When the office opened in June the company wanted to hire about 20 workers with the possibility of expanding that workforce to 30 or 40 employees in the near future.

“Our ability to hire at DataRobot is virtually endless,” Embrey said. “We’ve hired 500 people across the world in the last six months, but we would prefer to hire 500 people in West Virginia if we could get those people in the door.”

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Protecting rim a point of emphasis for Herd ahead of matchup at Akron

— By Bill Cornwell

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall continues a brief road trip Wednesday as the Thundering Herd visits the Akron Zips for a 7 p.m. tip.

The Herd (4-2) lost Saturday night at Indiana, 90-79. Marshall hung tough with the Hoosiers throughout the contest, but couldn’t overcome their inside strength as IU’s junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis torched Marshall by scoring 43 points.

Akron (3-3) returns home after going 1-2 in last week’s Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida. The Zips’ last game in the event resulted in a 69-60 win over Evansville.

The Zips are led by head coach John Groce, who has a 72-52 record in his fourth season in Akron.

Marshall’s emphasis in preparing for Wednesday’s game is improving its inside defensive presence after Jackson-Davis endured little difficulty and the Hoosiers scored 50 points in the paint.

“Some of that you’ve just got to man up,” Herd coach Dan D’Antoni said. “We’ve got to challenge our kids to man up and then we’ve got to have an alternate attack.”

Much of Monday’s practice dealt with offering defensive double teams at the basket to counter an Akron offense that presents somewhat similar challenges to those offered by Indiana.

Akron is led by 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Enrique Freeman, who averages 12.5 points per game. Other double-figure scorers for the Zips are 6-8 sophomore Ali Ali (11.2 ppg) and 6-1 junior guard Xavier Castaneda at 10 points per game.

“They play inside-out,” D’Antoni said. “We’ve got to work defensively on just guarding the post and how to rotate and bring in help. We’ve got to get better at it.”

Freeman is the Zips’ leading rebounder at 11.2 per game.

Akron brings some size off of the bench in the form of 7-foot freshman center Aziz Bandaogo from Senegal, who chips in with 5.5 points per game, 4.3 rebounds and is the team’s top shot blocker.

Junior guard Taevion Kinsey still leads Marshall in scoring at 19.8 points per contest. Other double-figure scorers for the Herd are redshirt freshman forward Obinna Anochili-Killen (14.3 ppg), senior forward Darius George (13 ppg) and junior guard Andrew Taylor (12.2 ppg).

Anochili-Killen is Marshall’s top rebounder at 8.5 per game and he’s also recorded 33 blocks in six games. Taylor leads Marshall in assists with 41.

The teams have met 14 times in the past, with the Zips leading the series 8-6. The last matchup was in December 2019, an 85-73 Akron win in Huntington at the Cam Henderson Center.

After the game in Akron, Marshall returns home and will welcome Duquesne on Saturday. That game will start at 7 p.m. at the Cam Henderson Center.

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Medical cannabis sign-up events continue in North Central WV this week

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis (OMC) will host public sign-up events for medical cannabis patients in North Central West Virginia for the next two days.

The first event is Wednesday at the Morgantown Fairfield Inn and Suites from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the second event is at the Hampton Inn in Weston from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday.

Jason Frame, the Director of the OMC appeared on Tuesday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline’ and said the events are intended to provide on-site help for residents that may be struggling to navigate his office’s web-based patient sign-up portal.

“Before the patient can register in our system, they have to of seen the physician. The physician has to have evaluated them to make sure they do have one of the serious medical conditions listed in the act,” Frame said.

Patients who have already been certified by a registered physician as having an applicable serious medical condition must bring the following items:

Completed patient certification form

Driver’s license or state ID

Proof of West Virginia residency, such as a utility bill

$50 patient ID card application fee, which must be paid by check or money order

Patients who have not already seen a registered physician must bring the following items, in addition to the above:

At least one piece of medical documentation that shows their diagnosis, such as medical records, a letter from a doctor, or office visit summaries

Valid photo ID

Two proofs of West Virginia residency for state registration

Cash, credit, or debit to pay the $149 physician evaluation fee

Jason Frame, Director of the West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis, speaks with @HoppyKercheval about the upcoming signup events. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIAoe1 pic.twitter.com/l56SMGE8vX

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) November 30, 2021

Patients who have a household income of 200% of the federal poverty level or less may apply for a waiver of the $50 patient ID card fee at the event. If a waiver is requested, applicants must provide their most recent W2, paystubs within the last 30 days or proof of eligibility for low-income benefits.

Appointments are strongly encouraged and may be scheduled by calling 304-356-5090.

Frame said his office has already done around a half dozen sign-up events with great success. According to him, there have been 4,800 patient applications.

There is also an event scheduled Tuesday Dec. 7 in Princeton at the Country Inn and Suites.

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Marshall Health set to hold HIV testing event on World AIDS Day

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Wednesday marks World AIDS Day and Marshall Health is coordinating a free, confidential HIV testing event to commemorate the day.

Marshall Health, in collaboration with the Cabell-Huntington Health Department (CHHD), Harmony House and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WV DHHR), will offer the testing Wednesday from 2 to 6 p.m. at the health department at 703 7th Ave. in Huntington.

Free flu and COVID-19 vaccinations will be available for those participating in the HIV screening, a release said.

“Increased testing, education and resources for those with positive tests and community prevention are vital to decreasing the spread of HIV,” said Jessica Ford, D.O., pediatric hospitalist fellow at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

Marshall Health held similar events in December of last year and this past spring. Marshall Health’s Dr. Andrea Lauffer, an assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, told MetroNews the turnout in the spring was great and many COVID shots were taken too.

Lauffer said everybody should know their HIV status.

Dr. Andrea Lauffer

“Certainly if you’re at higher risk for HIV, you should be tested more frequently. It is recommended that everybody between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested for HIV at least once in their life,” Lauffer said.

The testing and vaccines are free and quick, Lauffer said with instant results from the testing. Insurance will not be billed and no appointments are necessary.

There is no age restriction for confidential HIV tests (parental consent is not required by law). Parental consent is required for those younger than 18 years of age for flu and COVID vaccines, a release said.

“If there are individuals that are concerned about privacy issues, they need not to be concerned. Everything is done confidentially,” Lauffer said.

Free TTA bus transportation to the health department is available and swag bags will be distributed while supplies last.

Marshall Health noted that HIV is a virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) if not treated. HIV is preventable and those at high risk may benefit from taking medication known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.

HIV/AIDS cannot be cured, but it can be treated, a health release stated. Getting tested is the only way to find out if you have HIV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in seven people with HIV in the U.S. do not know that they are infected.

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Holiday shopping back to pre-pandemic levels

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Concerns with supply chain issues, inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop consumers from buying gifts during the five-day holiday shopping weekend.

Bridget Lambert

“Overall, we’re very optimistic. It’s been a good season so far and we think it’s going to continue very strong,” West Virginia Retailers Association President Bridget Lambert told MetroNews Tuesday.

Sales increased during Black Friday, especially with many people feeling confident to shop in stores again.

“We think the personal connections that people have when they’re out shopping with other consumers or with in-store personnel, people were missing that,” Lambert said.

The National Retail Federation reported Tuesday nearly 180 million Americans shopped in stores and online from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday.

Lambert said holiday sales are expected to rise between 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent this season. Much of that has to do with increased vaccinations and employees returning to work.

Supply chain issues; however, have caused some people to shop earlier this year.

“There is consumer fears of not having the product or having an order put on a back order status. They do fear that it may not come in,” Lambert said.

About 104.9 million shoppers visited stores, up from 92.3 million in 2020, according to the NRF. The overall number of online shoppers decreased to a total of 127.8 million from 145.4 million last year.

Black Friday remained the most popular day for in-store shopping and online shopping, surpassing Cyber Monday.

“We saw a slight down tick of shopping on Cyber Monday. We believe retailers brought out deals earlier this season. People started shopping in October,” Lambert said. “Online shopping has become the norm.”

The importance of supporting local businesses remained top of mind for many consumers, with 71 percent indicating they were shopping specifically for Small Business Saturday.

Morgan Morrison, owner of Rock City Cake Company in Charleston, said people made an effort to shop local.

“You have that crowd on top of the foot traffic from Holly Jolly Brawley, from everything going on downtown and the families visiting, I think overall, especially for us, it was a really good weekend,” she said Monday on “580 Live” heard on MetroNews affiliate 580-WCHS.

There was a shift in buying patterns last year. Many people turned to gifts and not experiences due to the pandemic, Lambert said.

Top gift purchases over the weekend included clothing and accessories (51 percent), toys (32 percent), gift cards (28 percent), books/music/movies/video games (28 percent) and electronics (24 percent).

The holiday shopping season runs through the end of the year.

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Crews work to contain remote fire in New River Gorge

GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Fire crews from Fayette County and the National Park Service are trying to put out a fire first noticed Monday in a steep and rugged area of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in Fayette County.

“It’s hard to access, there’s not much in the way of trails down there. The steep terrain makes if difficult with treacherous footing and things rolling downhill, like burning logs. It creates a dangerous situation for fire fighters,” said Dave Bieri, District Supervisor for the National Park Service.

The fire has consumed about 80 acres so far in an area called Beauty Mountain. It was first noticed Monday morning and fire crews managed to reach the area Monday afternoon. However, the conditions have made it difficult to put out.

“This is kind of the season for it. We’re seeing sunny weather, with dry conditions and a little bit of a breeze which is not what you want when you’re fighting a fire,” Bieri said.

According to Bieri, crews hoped for some rain to help out on Wednesday. Until then they’re trying to build a fire line halfway up the Gorge to halt the advance.

“Down below you have a natural fire line with the railroad and the river. It hasn’t gotten up to the top of the Gorge. It’s in an area where there are no structures threatened or anything like that. We’ll try to contain it with a fire line,” he said.

Crews from the Cuyahoga National Park, the Shenandoah National Park, and the U.S. Forest Service along with state fire fighting crews are working the fire. There’s no word at this point what may have sparked the fire.

As a result of the fire, the National Park Service has closed access to some of the popular hiking trails in the park and preserve including Nuttallburg, Keeney’s Creek Rail Trail, and the Headhouse Trail. The Endless Wall Trail and both parking lots are also closed due to the fire along with the popular climbing areas from Short Creek to the Cirque.

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