Victim’s Family Addresses State Crime Commission

HelpSave02While state lawmakers were preparing this week to tackle the budget and Medicaid expansion, they also had an audience of two people who are trying to prevent tragedies like what happened to their daughter and other women in Virginia. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, while Gil and Dan Harrington say they are hopeful that now-missing Hannah Graham is found alive and well, this is eerily similar to other cases of missing or abducted women who vanished.

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Breaking Developments in Missing Student Investigation

Photo: Charlottesville Newsplex

Photo: Charlottesville Newsplex

As the search continues for missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, authorities spent Friday afternoon searching an apartment unit at the Hessian Hill Apartment complex, off of Barracks Road.

Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo says the search was prompted by one of the most productive leads so far in the search for the 18-year-old, last seen nearly 7 days ago.

Also, university police say they have just learned about two possible rapes that may have occurred in the days following Graham’s disappearance.The first incident involved a female U.Va. student who reported being sexually assaulted near Wertland Street in the early morning hours of Sept. 14.

The second incident is believed to have occurred in the 200 block of 15th Street NW during the early morning hours of Sept. 15, where police discovered an unconscious female who is a local resident. The circumstances regarding her injuries are unclear and are being investigated as a possible sexual assault.”

Longo was asked why the public had not been informed of those attacks. He noted that one victim was hospitalized and said he planned to offer more information on those incidents in an upcoming news conference.  Beverly Amsler interviews Charlottesville journalist Hawes Spencer:

 

 

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Vigil for Hannah Graham

Photo: L.Daniels "Help Find Hannah Graham" Facebook Page

Photo: L.Daniels
“Help Find Hannah Graham” Facebook Page

Thousands of people gathered at the University of Virginia last night for a candlelight vigil in support of Hannah Graham, a student who disappeared nearly a week ago.  Meanwhile, police are asking for more help from the public, and a search is planned for Saturday.  Sandy Hausman has details on all three developments.

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General Assembly Discusses Medicaid Expansion in Special Session

GenAss02Just before the start of the General Assembly’s Special Session to debate Medicaid expansion, a state employee could be overheard saying about lawmakers: “They probably won’t get anything done–this will just keep going.” As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, based on early floor debates in the House of Delegates, that person may be right—at least as it pertains to Medicaid expansion.

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VA Attorney General Sues Major Banks for $1Billion

Fraud Lawsuit Photo

Attorney General Mark Herring announces the lawsuit in front of the John Marshall Courts Building in Richmond.

State Attorney General Mark Herring has announced a  $1.15-billion lawsuit against some of the world’s largest commercial banks for allegedly committing fraud against Virginia taxpayers during the nation’s frenzied real estate bubble.

The court documents—which were filed earlier this year but just unsealed—accuse the banks of bundling both sound and risky mortgages into toxic securities that were then fraudulently sold to the Virginia Retirement System.  And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, when the real estate bubble burst, the value of the state pension fund plummeted.

The lawsuit was filed in Richmond Circuit Court against 13 banks, including Citigroup Global Markets, Countrywide Securities, and Goldman, Sachs.

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Drone Attack on Cancer

uterine_cancer_tissuesA research team at the University of Virginia reports possible progress in fighting ovarian, breast, uterine, renal, head and neck and pancreatic cancers, and if you’re a taxpayer in Virginia, you’re an investor.  Sandy Hausman has details.

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Search for Missing UVA Student Continues

missing1The search continues today for Hannah Graham, an 18-year-old University of Virginia student who had recently moved to Charlottesville from Fairfax County where she was an honors student and athlete.  Hannah Graham was last heard from early Saturday morning, when she texted a friend that she was heading for a party.

The news sparked worry on campus and brought a new round of grief for a Roanoke couple whose daughter disappeared five years ago.  

Hannah Graham 01

Anyone with information about Graham is asked to call Charlottesville Police Department at 434-970-3280 or CrimeStoppers at 434-977-4000.

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Agreement on Budget Cuts

Budget DealGovernor McAuliffe and General Assembly leaders have struck a deal to cut the state budget to cover an unexpected 2.4-billion-dollar-revenue shortfall.  The agreement taps the state’s Rainy Day Fund, while closing a 346-million-dollar gap this fiscal year, and 536-million-dollars the next.  And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the Governor stressed the bipartisan nature of the accord—flanked by GOP state lawmakers and the Democratic co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

The General Assembly had planned to hold a special session to debate Medicaid expansion on Thursday.  However, Speaker Howell said lawmakers will also take action on new legislation to reconcile and finalize the biennial budget.

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Climate Change & the Chesapeake Bay

dreyer_j_honorablemention

Students Hannah Erhmann and Martin Wong retrieving a trawl net from the waters of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Photo by Jenny Dreyer.

Next week the U.N. will bring experts from around the world for a climate change summit in New York. On the Chesapeake Bay scientists are looking at what a warmer bay might mean for species like the blue crab and striped bass. Pamela D’Angelo reports.

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VaNews for 09.15.14

VPAPnewKeeping a campaign promise is costing Governor McAuliffe money…and a Virginia fifth-grader is challenging her school’s limit on the use of lip balm. Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link. Fred Echols has more.

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Cost of Flooding

Flood 02Flooding is not just a coastal problem. If you reside in a low-lying area prone to flash flooding, you know that during any torrential downpour–not just in a hurricane season–you’re vulnerable. Insurance companies know it as well, and individuals and business are sometimes required to buy flood insurance AND pay higher premiums. But as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, now one General Assembly panel is tasked with studying the problem and finding ways to mitigate the sometimes exorbitant costs.

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Solar Storm Heading Toward Earth

SolarFlareThe world is already grappling with war, plague and climate change. Now comes word of another threat – space weather. Scientists have issued a strong Geomagnetic Storm Watch for Saturday. Sandy Hausman explains what that is, and why we should care.

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Richmond Commemorates 9/11

Young Midlothia Singers, Virginia War Memorial

With Richmond’s tallest buildings as a backdrop on the site where the Commonwealth formally honors its war dead—Virginians held a remembrance service for those who died 13-years ago  in the September 11th attacks … and presented a civics lesson to citizens who may take being an American for granted. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports.

 

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VA Lawmakers on U.S. ISIS Efforts

CongressVirginia lawmakers are coming around President Obama’s plan to combat the Islamic State, even as they say they want to have a say in what could become an extended war. Capitol Hill reporter Matt Laslo has the story.

President Obama’s announcement he’s going to bomb the Islamic State is giving him some new Republican partners from Virginia on Capitol Hill, while also causing headaches for many in his own party. Capitol Hill reporter Matt Laslo has the story.

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Designing a Health Insurance Plan

OpenWhile states prepare for the next Affordable Care Act open enrollment period, Virginia lawmakers say they’re not happy that almost a quarter of a million Virginians who are already insured are learning—or about to find out—that their current insurance policy will no longer be in effect. More from Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil.

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Sen. Kaine Urges Talks on ISIS

Congress03Ahead of President Obama’s national address tonight, Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine is urging the White House to come to Congress before extending its bombing campaign against the Islamic State. Capitol Hill reporter Matt Laslo has the story.

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Mental Health Panel Studies Disparities in Care

Mental HealthThe legislative panel formed to examine and help improve Virginia’s mental health system spent hours learning foundational facts about mental illnesses, treatments, how the state’s system of care works, and how it is funded.  One consensus that seems to be emerging among the joint subcommittee’s members is that there’s a disparity in services across the Commonwealth. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, while the multi-year study continues, panel members hope to endorse some recommendations for the next General Assembly session.  

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Governor Proposes Limited Healthcare Expansion Plan

GovHEalthCareMore than 200,000 Virginians —most without insurance— could access healthcare services under an executive plan announced today by Governor McAuliffe.  The 10-step program is called “A Healthy Virginia” and does not require General Assembly approval.  And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the governor aims to secure as many federal dollars as possible—instead of funding the entire plan through the state budget.

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VA News for 09.08.14

VPAPnewA new elementary school in Northern Virginia could serve as a model for urban districts all over the state…and a county sheriff is defending the use of military style equipment by local police. Those have been among the most read stories in recent days on the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link at vpap.org. Fred Echols reports.

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Following the Rules on ‘Franked’ Mail

mailWatchdog groups say Virginia lawmakers are blurring the line between their campaigns and official duties as representatives. Capitol Hill reporter Matt Laslo has the story on how lawmakers use taxpayer funds to communicate with voters.

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Public Weighs in on Fracking

FrackingBumperStickerState officials met with Tidewater communities this week who are trying to learn as much as they can about potential fracking on 84,000 leased acres close to the Chesapeake Bay. Some of the sites are at the doorsteps of  George Washington and Robert E. Lee’s birthplaces. The region may have the most stringent regulatory protections and the commitment of two state officials to protect the area’s heritage, but that may not last. Pamela D’Angelo reports.

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After the Verdict

Steve Helber/AP via NPR

Steve Helber/AP via NPR

There was no media briefing and no victory lap by the prosecutors who conducted the trial…and few comments by either Bob or Maureen McDonnell-who are now convicted felons. As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, after three days of deliberations, the jury handed down convictions on the majority of the charges against the two-leaving many asking, “What just happened?”. . .

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Deliberations Continue in Corruption Trial

AP Photo/Steve Helber via NPR

AP Photo/Steve Helber via NPR

Day 2 of the jury deliberations in the Bob and Maureen McDonnell corruption trial has the media, onlookers, and, of course, the McDonnell family camped out or nearby awaiting a verdict. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports.

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Decoding Ethics Laws

EthicsbooksThe jury continues its deliberations today in the federal trial of former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen. The two defendants face 14 counts involving corruption, obstruction of justice, and lying on financial documents. Much of the disagreement over whether the former first couple broke the law by accepting gifts and loans from ex-Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams—while supporting his business—comes from differing interpretations of what some believe are murky ethics and corruption laws. Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan explains.

 

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Small Blessings: Talking with Martha Woodroof

SmallBlessingsPlenty of people toy with the idea of writing a book, but few will actually get published, and by the time we reach our mid-60’s, those dreams have faded.  Not so for Martha Woodroof, a WMRA public radio personality who has published her first novel at the age of 67.  It’s called Small Blessings, and it’s getting rave reviews as Sandy Hausman reports.WMRA

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Instructions to the Jury

Former Governor Bob McDonnell and son leave the courthouse.

Former Governor Bob McDonnell and son leave the courthouse.

The case of the “United States of America versus Robert and Maureen McDonnell” now rests in the hands of the jury.  U.S. District Judge James Spencer spent all morning presenting his instructions to the 12 jurors—including the definitions of each charge and the elements of the complex federal laws that would be essential for conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.  The proceedings began with the defense formally objecting to some of the jury instructions that echoed statements made by prosecutors.


The jury will not be sequestered. Until a verdict is rendered, the jury will deliberate each day until the early evening, then each juror will go home and begin again the next morning.  They were instructed to not read, listen to, or watch any news, discuss the case with anyone, or do research on the Internet.

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Proposed Atlantic Pipeline

Natural Gas FlameFracking has produced massive amounts of natural gas in West Virginia.  North Carolina and wants some.  Now, Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas have announced they would team up with AGL and Richmond-based Dominion to make that possible — building a pipeline through Virginia.  The news provoked an outcry from the environmental community and grassroots groups as Sandy Hausman reports.

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VaNews for 09.01.14

VPAPnew

A resort lake in Southwestern Virginia is having trouble holding its water….and a state delegate is claiming a constitutional right to a booth at his local county fair. These have been among the most read stories this week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on vpap.org. Fred Echols has more.

 

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Lockn’ Music Festival Returns

LocknOrganizers of the Lockn’ Music Festival are gearing up for this year’s event, despite complaints from ABC agents who videotaped illegal drug buys and one young woman sunbathing topless. The four-day fest, September 4- 7,  will feature some big names, including Willie Nelson playing – for the first time – in Nelson County. 

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A New Chapter for Natural Bridge

NatBridgeNatural Bridge, the geologic wonder that captivated early America, is heading toward a revival as a Virginia state park.  That will likely bring more hiking and biking to the famous 215-foot tall formation. But as Hawes Spencer reports, some of the more unique sideshows, like the wax museum, are being pushed aside. 

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Decorated Combat Veteran Died in Augusta Plane Crash

Fontenot in F-15After exhaustive search efforts, the body of the pilot of the F-15 that crashed in Augusta County Wednesday has been located.

Officials at the Barnes Air National Guard Base have released his identify and the following information:

Lt. Col. Morris “Moose”  Fontenot Jr. served with the 104th Fighter Wing as the full-time Wing Inspector General, responsible for the implementation of the Air Force Inspection System and as an F-15 instructor pilot with more than 2,300 flight hours. A 1996 Air Force Academy Graduate, Lt. Col. Fontenot was additionally a Weapons School Graduate with more than 17 years of F-15 flying experience. He served as a squadron commander at multiple locations.

Following Active Duty assignments in Washington D.C., Japan, Idaho, Florida, Alaska and numerous deployments to the Middle East, Lt. Col. Fontenot joined the Massachusetts Air National Guard in February 2014. He was a decorated combat veteran, earning the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, and Combat Readiness Medal among others.

Kelsea Pieters reports.

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Closing Arguments in Corruption Trial Friday

Former Gov. Bob McDonnell leaves the courthouse with his children.

Former Gov. Bob McDonnell leaves the courthouse with his children.

Day 24 of the corruption trial of former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, began with the prosecution’s rebuttal witness, FBI Special Agent Kathryn Weber.

Since the former first lady was not a public official under the law, prosecutors must prove that the former first couple engaged in a conspiracy to win convictions on some charges.

After days of testimony by McDonnell and other witnesses that the couple did not communicate well, that was a huge challenge.

Weber compared 22 relevant months of schedules and said the couple spent about 90 percent of those nights together. But she conceded that “together” meant an overnight stay under the same roof. The defense pointed out numerous dates when McDonnell flew in from out-of-state and arrived home late at night.

Executive Mansion logs showed that Jonnie Williams visited Maureen twice when he was gone. Judge James Spencer then dismissed the jurors so that he could finalize jury instructions.  Legal analyst Todd Stone said those include standards of evidence.

“The government has to prove each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. And all the jurors have to unanimously agree in order for there to be a finding of guilt.”

With his children embracing him for support, McDonnell briefly left the courthouse. In response to reporters, he said he wished he had done many things differently in his 60 years of life.

“I’m a human being, and like every one of you, we all do things we wish we did a little differently. It’s just the way life is.”

He admitted his fallibility—then was asked if he forgave Jonnie Williams. The former governor replied, “Sure.”

Hear the report from Anne Marie Morgan:

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Making Headlines: Virginia’s Reputation

GivingSpreeIt wasn’t long ago that Virginia was a political powerhouse to be reckoned with. But now, Eric Cantor, its most powerful voice in Congress, has been silenced, a Virginia delegate will soon answer to charges of having an inappropriate relationship with a minor, and its nationally recognized former governor, Bob McDonnell, is on trial.  Now many are asking:  Is this soap opera-like trial tarnishing the state’s reputation … or causing Virginians to lose faith in their leadership?  Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil has more.

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Search and Rescue Operations Continue in Augusta County

f15+crash_thatguy_gbeck_cropped

Garrett Beck, from Deerfield Va. This photo was taken at Marble Valley Farms.

The search continues for this missing pilot, whose F-15-C Eagle crashed in the Washington National Forest near Deerfield Valley, in Augusta County, yesterday morning.

More than 100 Military, federal, local and state personnel are active in the search and rescue operation.

Their efforts are concentrated around the southeast side of Mount Crawford, Virginia…there are nine aircraft involved in the search and ten search-and-rescue teams are on the ground canvassing logging roads, fire trails and forest roads.

 

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Wedding Size Matters

Wedding-generic2editThe National Marriage Project is out with new and surprising findings.  In a study of more than 400 couples, UVA social scientists concluded the size of your wedding matters.    Sandy Hausman has that story.

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Defense Rests in McDonnell Corruption Trial

Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky

Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky

Former Governor Bob McDonnell’s defense team rested their case on Day 23 of his federal corruption trial …and then lawyers for Maureen McDonnell took a turn calling witnesses for the former first lady. As Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, their testimonies seemed to bolster defense assertions that ex-Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams pushed his gifts onto people who never asked for them…and that the former first couple’s marriage was troubled for years before they ever reached the Executive Mansion.

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Corruption Trial Continues for Fifth Week

McDonnell 082114Week five and day 21 of the Bob and Maureen McDonnell corruption trial has neither the prosecutors nor the judge handling the former governor with care. As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, Monday’s testimony had onlookers grabbing a virtual bag of popcorn and a soft drink waiting for prosecutors to really hone in on the corruption charges.

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VaNews for 08.25.14

VPAPnewLocal officials in Appomattox County are contesting with one another to see who can take the most impressive pay cut…and Virginia Tech’s new president found a surprising way to connect with incoming freshmen. Fred Echols talks with David Poole.

Those stories have been among the most read over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on vpap.org.

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Stories from the Cemeteries

AmosMonroeThis fall, plenty of professors will be sending their students to the library, but one faculty member plans to send his kids into the cemeteries of Richmond to learn more about the city’s past.   He’s sharing the information with the public through a website and podcasts.  Sandy Hausman has that story.

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McDonnell Trial: Following the Money

Media Gang at McDonnellOn day 20 of the former first couple’s federal corruption trial and day 3 of testimony from former Governor Bob McDonnell, jurors were able to follow the money. The last two days were focused on McDonnell’s troubled marriage and how it conflicted with his job as governor.  The former governor testified about the loans and relationship he had with ex-Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams. Tommie McNeil reports.

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Former Governor’s 2nd Day on the Stand

McDonnell 082114Testimony by former governor Bob McDonnell during his federal corruption trial consisted of his description of the breakdown of his marriage and pleading to his wife and co-defendant, Maureen, about her overspending. The morning was pretty solemn—and at one point, there was some much-needed comic relief when he was asked about his own purchases.  Tommie McNeil reports.

 

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Former Governor on the Stand

Former Governor Bob McDonnell has now taken the stand in his corruption trial.

ToddHaymore

Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore

Prosecutors in the case turned the tables on another of the defense witnesses … and momentarily backed the McDonnells’ attorneys up against a wall.  But as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, subsequent testimony from a cabinet member and other associates MAY have created some balance between the opposing cases in the middle of this third week of the trial.

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Defense Continues in McDonnell Corruption Trial

Political Analyst Dr. Bob Holsworth

Political Analyst Dr. Bob Holsworth

Day 16 of the federal corruption trial of former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife opened with Judge James Spencer thanking the jurors for being there—and saying that he had prayed for each of them last night. That was a subtle reference to the loss of three jurors since the proceedings began. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the defense continued with its witnesses and meticulously focused on McDonnell’s sister and real estate business partner—who, like his wife, is also named “Maureen.”

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McDonnell Trial Update: Defense Calls the Witnesses

Janet Vestal Kelly, the former Secretary of the Commonwealth

Janet Vestal Kelly, the former Secretary of the Commonwealth

Day 15 of the federal corruption trial of former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, began with the replacement of a juror who had to go out-of-state for a family emergency. That leaves just one alternate juror in the event that any others are excused. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, this week the defense is calling the witnesses—in hopes of casting doubt on the prosecution’s case.

 

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VaNews for 08.18.14

VPAPnewOne Virginia locality has taken a step toward ending its prohibition of fortune telling while another will offer a second chance to dogs that kill chickens. Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at Virginia Public Access Project’s V-A news link on V-PAP-dot- org. Fred Echols reports.

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Dismal State Financial Report

Governor McAuliffe speaks to reporters as budget committee members look on.

Governor McAuliffe speaks to reporters as budget committee members look on.

“Not surprised—but still disappointing.” That statement from one of Virginia’s budget-writing committee leaders is the consensus of the others who heard a dismal financial report from Governor McAuliffe.  As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, they nevertheless applaud the Governor for his leadership… and have already begun figuring out ways to address the projected shortfall.

 

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McDonnell Corruption Trial: The Business of Banking

Nanette Bolt leaves the courthouse after testifying.

Nanette Bolt leaves the courthouse after testifying.

The prosecution is close to wrapping up its arguments in the federal trial of former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen. This time it focused primarily on how the former governor allegedly lied on mortgage refinance applications to cover up the loans given to him and the former first lady by ex-Star Scientific CEO, Jonnie Williams. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports from the federal courthouse in Richmond.

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VPAPnewResidents in counties around Richmond are up in arms about a plan to fertilize fields using industrial sludge and a Virginia sheriff is questioning the state’s moratorium on drones. Those stories have been among the most read over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on vpap.org.  Fred Echols reports.

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Children’s Cabinet: Commonwealth Council on Childhood Success

Sec. Bill Hazel

Sec. Bill Hazel

Governor McAuliffe has signed two executive orders to create a new framework within his administration to potentially help more children succeed.  The goal is to develop, implement, and prioritize a policy agenda related to health, poverty, safety, education, nutrition, and housing.   And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the plan is to coordinate and strengthen public services on all levels —with a special focus on at-risk children in high-poverty communities.

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The Art of Smokey the Bear

Rudy Wendelin, "Why?" 1990. Image courtesy of the National Agricultural Library, U.S.

Rudy Wendelin, “Why?”
1990.
Image courtesy of the National Agricultural Library, U.S.

The Virginia Department of Forestry celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, and fans of the forests will mark the 70th birthday of the best known fire fighter – Smokey Bear.  Sandy Hausman reports on a special art show organized to honor both.

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