Alina Sewing and Design

Hillbillies? In a place where 40% of older adults are toothless, the unhealthiest city is located (50% of adults are obese in Huntington), the unemployment rate it among the highest in the nation and close to a fifth of the state lives in poverty, one man has made it his personal battle to combat West Virginia’s reputation.

Last week, NEWSWEEK’s Society section featured an article about how Gov. Joe Manchin has begun a campaign to shed West Virginia’s country bumpkin skin. “Open for Business!”–the state’s new slogan replaces “Wild and Wonderful,” and was penned to focus on Manchin’s plan to rebuild the state’s reputation through commerce and education.

For example, he has created a program that dispenses $50 million to state universities, helping to create 1,000 jobs in the field of research. To get the educated to stay, this year he is also proposing free in-state tuition for those who agree to work and live there after graduation.

While he is working to focus the public eye on what are considered West Virginia’s good qualities–country roads, small towns, low crime rates, outdoor activities and rich natural beauty, he realizes the challenge set before him.

Because of the incestuous “mountain children” (see ABC’s Children of the Mountains) stereotype, Manchin has already begun his campaign by defending the state. “Every time I see [slander], I attack it and I defend us,” he told NEWSWEEK. He also knows that this won’t happen overnight–no, he’s planned for this change to happen over the course of the next three decades.

But before big changes are made, Pocahontas County’s annual Road Kill Cook-Off may need to be adapted to the state’s new image. “Flat Cat,” anyone?

[Read NEWSWEEK’s full article here.]

Meanwhile, a West Virginia state lawmaker wants to ban the Mattel Barbie doll and others like her, suggesting that they negatively affect the emotional and psychological development of young girls. Read that full story here.

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