Connie Stevens

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New Findings on College Costs in VA

JLARCSpending on support functions at Virginia’s public colleges and universities is one reason that higher education costs have escalated over the last two decades.  That’s the conclusion of the latest report by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, which has been studying why the costs of a college education have soared.  The study also found that improving organizational structure and purchasing strategies could help rein in those costs.

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Tobacco Commission Considers Southwest Medical School Again

tobaccocommission2When critics question how effectively the Virginia Tobacco Commission is using hundreds of millions of dollars the state received from the National Tobacco Settlement there’s one project that always seems to come up.

It started five years ago as a $25-million grant to establish a medical school in Bristol. Since then the only two things that have been consistent about the plan are the absence of any apparent progress and the Tobacco Commission’s continuing support.  Fred Echols reports.

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VMFA’s Forbidden City Exhibit

Credit: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Credit: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

This week, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts  will paint the town red, opening a massive new show from China.  Sandy Hausman reports on The Forbidden City – a look inside the palace that two dozen Chinese emperors called home.

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VaNews for 10.13.14

VPAPnewDanville City Council must decide whether the Confederate flag will continue to fly over the site of the final cabinet meeting of the Confederacy…and gun rights activists are angry after the sheriff of Stafford County moved to prevent the open carrying of firearms at a National Night Out event. 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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Top Searcher In Hannah Graham Case Moves On

HannahGraham at restaurantWhile Charlottesville Police have received thousands of leads in the case of a missing student, they now have a new responsibility: running the search for the young woman.  Hawes Spencer has this update.

 

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Redrawing Virginia’s Congressional Districts

Congressional District MapAccused of unconstitutional gerrymandering, Virginia’s General Assembly was told last week by a federal district court in Richmond that it must redraw its Congressional map next year because too many black voters are “packed” into one majority-minority district.  But state lawmakers could actually avoid a contentious debate and not address the issue at all during their next session. As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, it is possible.

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Obstacles to Oral Health Care

DentalWhile it is true that many Virginians do not have health insurance, that number is dwarfed by those who don’t have affordable access to oral health facilities and dentists. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, because poor dental hygiene also leads to other health problems, Virginia lawmakers are now studying the most feasible ways to address the problem.

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Same Sex Couples Embrace Marriage Recognition in Virginia

Attorney General Mark Herring and Plaintiffs Carol Schall and Mary Townley celebrate.

Attorney General Mark Herring and Plaintiffs Carol Schall and Mary Townley celebrate.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to review the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling against Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban is already having an impact.  The 4th Circuit issued its mandate early Monday afternoon, and same-sex couples began lining up at local courthouses to get married.  One of the couples who successfully sued to overturn the state Constitution’s marriage provision renewed the vows that they had first taken in another state.  Anne Marie Morgan reports.

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Lead Found in VA Well Water Tests

Virginia Household Water Quality Program

Virginia Household Water Quality Program

There’s no argument about the fact that any amount of lead in drinking water is unsafe. No matter how much, it’s too much, of this potent neurotoxin. But lead has been showing up in well water tests around Virginia. About a fifth of the state’s residents get their water from wells. As Robbie Harris reports, the findings are new evidence of a problem many thought had been solved.

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Virgina’s Voter ID Law

VoteHereVirginia’s new voter I-D law has Virginia Democrats worried after the state board of elections found nearly two hundred thousand registered voters don’t have a driver’s license. Capitol Hill reporter Matt Laslo has the story on how Republicans say Democrats are overreacting.

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Sen. Kaine Pushes for Indian Recognition

Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine is urging the Bureau of Indian Affairs to loosen requirements for federal recognition because six Virginia tribes remain locked out. Capitol Hill reporter Matt Laslo has the story.

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Parents of Missing U.VA Student Reach Out for Help

Graham ParentsThe parents of missing UVA student Hannah Graham, John and Sue Graham, released a heartrending video over the weekend pleading for information to the whereabouts of their daughter.

More than 100 law enforcement officers from across central Virginia joined trained search and rescue teams to search  rural areas of western and eastern Albemarle County Sunday. Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo says, “Every square inch of Albemarle County is being searched this weekend and we’re going to find Hannah Graham.”

 

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Using National Parks to Inspire Fitness

Jonna Photo 01In recent years, as the National Park Service has faced deep funding cuts and a stagnant number of visitors, the country’s demographic changes have made its problems more pronounced. Most visitors to National Parks are white, and increasingly they’re also older. For instance, Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park is one of the nation’s most visited and accessible parks, yet recent research indicates that 92% of visitors in 2011 were white.In hopes of shifting the numbers, the Park Service is now supporting new programs and grassroots groups working to attract underrepresented categories of visitors: young people, African-Americans and Latinos. Jonna McKone has the story of the group “Girl Trek” working to get African American women healthier — using National Parks to inspire long-term health.

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VaNews for 09.29.14

VPAPnewA Hanover County supervisor is upset because students are seeing a film in which Muslims say U-S actions abroad were among the causes of the 9-11 attacks…and growing numbers of state employees in Virginia are on public assistance while working full time. Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on vpap.org. Fred Echols reports.

 

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VP Biden in VA to Talk Transportation

BidenToday (Wednesday) Vice President Joe Biden is speaking in Norfolk, Virginia to highlight federal transportation spending. Capitol Hill reporter Matt Laslo has the details.

 

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Authorities Continue to Wait for Forensic Evidence in Missing Student Investigation

Richmond, VA

Richmond, VA

Charlottesville police may be frustrated this hour. Their only person of interest in the Hannah Graham case remains at large, and Sandy Hausman reports they’re still waiting for results from evidence sent to the state’s crime lab on Saturday.

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Charlottesville Journalist Sheds Light on Jesse Matthew

Hawes Spencer

Hawes Spencer

Jesse Matthew, who’s wanted for questioning in connection with the disappearance of UVA student Hannah Graham, is still missing, and he’s become the subject of considerable talk in the town where he grew up. Police say he has no record of violent crime, but reporter Hawes Spencer has been asking around and has come up with some intriguing information. We talked with Spencer about one particular incident. 

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Skype in the NICU

NICUOne of eight babies in this country is born prematurely. Some will be under intensive care for months, while worried parents wait and wonder how their newborn is doing. At the University of Virginia’s Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit, nurses are trying something new to ease the anxiety of families and build trust with the medical team. Sandy Hausman has that story.

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VaNews for 9.22.14

VPAPnewOne of Virginia’s most polluted industrial sites is now usable again….and something that looks like a cougar has Fairfax County on edge. Those have been among the most read stories in recent days at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link at vpap.org. Fred Echols reports.

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VA’s DNA Testing & Notification Project

The Virginia State Crime Commission discusses the DNA notification project.Modern DNA testing of biological evidence left in files decades ago by a now-deceased Virginia scientist has exonerated 11 individuals who had been convicted of felonies. At the direction of the General Assembly, the State Crime Commission has been trying to track down and notify 975 convicted suspects of their more recent test results. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, although the DNA testing and notification project has been ongoing for more than a decade, the project is still not finished.

 

 

 

 

 

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Person of Interest Named in Charlottesville Investigation

 Before going to work as a nursing assistant at the University of Virginia Medical Center, Jesse "LJ" Matthew drove a taxi in Charlottesville for many years. He's shown here with his Yellow Cab in 2007.


Before going to work as a nursing assistant at the University of Virginia Medical Center, Jesse “LJ” Matthew drove a taxi in Charlottesville for many years. He’s shown here with his Yellow Cab in 2007.

When Charlottesville police announced they had found the man seen with Hannah Graham on downtown mall security tapes, they refused to identify him.  This weekend a British newspaper named him and told his side of the story. Sandy Hausman reports.

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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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