Archive for October, 2012

Absentee Voting Hours

Whether it was blocked roads, heavy floods, or registrars without power, Hurricane Sandy made in-person absentee voting much more difficult—or impossible—this week.  And as concerns grow about its potential impact on close elections, state officials are intervening.  As Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports,  localities, state agencies, and power companies are working overtime to make sure voters will be able to get to the polls when they need to.

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Sandy at the Coast

As NY and NJ brace for the impact of Hurricane Sandy, the worst may have past for coastal Virginia. Our own Sandy, Hausman that is, reports from Hampton Roads.

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Behind the Wheel

As the hurricane moves inland, officials are warning of high winds and downed trees – which will, no doubt, make driving hazardous.  That’s why police are urging people not to drive — but if you must, Sandy Hausman reports there are some things you can do to make the trip safer.

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VaNews 10.29.12

VPAPnewElection news was again at the top of the list of most-viewed newspaper articles compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project at VaNews.

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All Tricks, No Treats

Hurricane Sandy could make the history books – bringing heavy snows to some areas in October, but our own Sandy – Hausman – reports the storm is surprising for other reasons.

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Skyline Drive

For the last several weeks, Virginia has been experiencing an economic boon.  It’s not because of exports or agriculture, but is the result of some very strategic planning many years ago. Skyline Drive takes tourists on one of the state’s most scenic byways from Northern Virginia to Central Virginia, especially right now during peak fall foliage season.  But if you haven’t experienced one of Virginia’s semi-natural wonders, you’d be remiss not to venture out at least o nce—to a place that some have dubbed “God’s Country.”  Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil has more.

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Statewide Storm Preparations

Governor McDonnell has declared a state of emergency ahead of the hurricane that forecasters say could strike a devastating blow to the Midatlantic and the Northeast.

Weather predictions suggest that Hurricane Sandy will have a much larger impact than recent hurricanes that have affected Virginia—and may hit Tidewater as early as Sunday night or Monday morning.  It is expected to cause flooding and downed trees through most of the state.  The Governor’s emergency declaration fully activates state agencies and the Virginia Guard—and all are coordinating with local governments.

The Governor said Virginians need to use the remaining hours today to make emergency preparations before the hurricane hits.   Dominion Virginia Power has already activated restoration crews and expects to get more teams from North Carolina and other states.  State officials say the aftermath will last for many days, so Virginians need to prepare.

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Virginia Conversations: Hello, Hollywood!

In a few weeks, Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” comes out with scenes filmed in Virginia.  What does the film industry do for the state and local economy? We hear from the Virginia Film Office.  Plus, a look at the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville, with Virginia Conversations host May-Lily Lee.

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Regulating Animal Ownership

In the latest public discussion on regulating the ownership of dangerous, exotic animals in Virginia, it seems snakes top the list of what people don’t want in their neighborhoods.  But Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports that many members of the state work group studying this measure side with the snakes, and say the Commonwealth may need less regulation and more education.

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Outside Campaign Money

A new report shows the Virginia U-S Senate race is attracting the most outside money in the nation. But Matt Laslo reports that we might not know the final spending numbers until months after the election.

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History of Nursing

The history of medicine is, to a great extent, a history of doctors, but nurses have stood alongside physicians for centuries – providing some of the most difficult care with little fanfare.  The University of Virginia is hoping to correct that injustice – putting a large and intriguing archive of photographs, documents and tools of the nursing trade online as Sandy Hausman reports.

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Chihuly Exhibit at VMFA

Richmond is gearing up for glass – lots and lots of glass, created by the world famous artist Dale Chihuly   Thousands of pieces are  on display at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and visitors can toast the show with special Chihuly cocktails as Sandy Hausman reports.

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Food Safety Concerns

Occasionally there are reports of a food recall as a result of a salmonella, listeria, or e-coli outbreak, and the agencies and policies that regulate food in the U.S. help to contain the spread of such problems.  But as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, a growing number of rogue businesses are becoming more elusive and making it harder for regulators to do their job—and it could result in more contaminated food recalls than we’ve seen in recent years.

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Eminent Domain

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the authority of a Connecticut city to transfer private property through eminent domain to a private business for the purpose of economic development.  The city’s rationale was that increasing the tax base was a “public use.”  But the Court also said states could place limits on the government’s eminent domain power.
So now, when Virginia voters head to the polls November 6th, they’ll also decide whether to amend the state constitution….to include stronger boundaries on the government’s right to condemn private property for public use. Anne Marie Morgan reports.

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Senate Candidates Discuss Sequestration

In the last presidential debate, President Obama declared that deep military spending cuts won’t take effect in places like Virginia, but those looming defense cuts are still on the books and they’ve become a centerpiece of the race to fill Virginia’s open U-S Senate seat. Matt Laslo has spent time with both candidates and has this snapshot.

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Campaign Spending

If you’re seeing more campaign ads and enjoying them less these days you’re not alone. Money flowing into Virginia from all over the country has been keeping the partisan volume pumped up for months now.  More from Fred Echols.

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On the Ballot

On November 6th, Virginia’s election ballot will feature two proposed amendments to the state Constitution.   The first ballot question involves much-debated limits on eminent domain—and  we have several reports  coming up  on that  issue in the coming days, leading up to the election.

The second ballot question is one that did not generate any controversy during the two General Assembly sessions when it was approved.  But as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, its objective is to respect the ‘free exercise of religion’ during the lawmaking process.

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VA’s Identity Management System

When the Southern Environmental Law Center recently announced that an Internet security breach exposed highly confidential information, it was a reminder that there may be few safeguards to protect the most sensitive information.  But as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, a Joint Commission on Technology and Science panel has been investigating how to create more layers of protection to make it more difficult to access information—starting with forms of identification.

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Virginia Conversations: U.S. Senate Race

On this edition of  “Virginia Conversations,” the race in Virginia to fill Jim Webb’s seat in the U.S. Senate. Two former governors are battling for that seat: Republican George Allen hopes to regain the seat he once held on Capitol Hill. And Tim Kaine hopes to join fellow Democrat Mark Warner representing Virginia in the U.S. Senate. Journalists covering the Allen and Kaine campaigns join this week’s host,  Bob Gibson.

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Meeting Over Menhaden

A 15-state commission will decide in December whether to sharply reduce fishing harvests of Atlantic menhaden.

The fish, considered vital to the health of the Chesapeake Bay, is the focus of public hearings this month from North Carolina to Maine. Last night, members of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission heard from Virginians in danger of losing their jobs at the only menhaden processing plant left on the East Coast.    Pamela D’Angelo reports.

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The transition from summer to fall is not all gem-toned leaves and blue Virginia mountains. It can, unfortunately, be a bit stinky.  Tab O’Neal has the story of a “true” bug.

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Career Pathways

Once again there’s a convergence of minds in Richmond to tackle the issue of improving education and taking students to the next academic level.  In an interview with Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil, Governor McDonnell discusses how before this and future generations can move forward, they must first master knowledge and skills that have been left behind in the classroom.

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Dental Care Policy

Virginia lawmakers are recognizing the growing body of evidence that connects oral health to overall health and well-being.  The Joint Commission on Health Care has begun a two-year study to determine the fiscal impact and other consequences of untreated dental disease in the Commonwealth.  And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, they’re finding that the cost of prevention may be far less than doing nothing.

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Virgil Goode’s Presidential Campaign

Former Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode  is on the presidential ballot in more than half of the U-S as the Constitution Party candidate. Matt Laslo is up in New Hampshire and checked on how his campaign is doing up north.

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Trees: There’s an App for That

This time of year, the beauty of the fall foliage makes Virginia’s trees a main attraction.  Now, a new smart-phone  ‘App’ can tell you which species you’re looking at and give you information about it.  This first ever “TREE I.D. App,” developed by a Virginia Tech Professor, is a free download for anyone who wants it.  Robbie Harris has more.

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Voter Registration Deadline

Both presidential campaigns are ramping up their efforts to get new voters signed up before the voter registration deadline in Virginia. Matt Laslo reports.

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Revenue Report

Virginia revenues declined for the month of September … resulting in tax collections for the first quarter of the fiscal year that are below the forecast used to craft the two-year state spending plan.  Finance Secretary Ric Brown told the House Appropriations Committee  that there’s no need to rush to lower the revenue forecast or cut the state budget just yet.  But as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, he also said the uncertainty of federal fiscal policies may be a drag on economic activity.

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Virginia’s 7th District Congressional Race

Rep. Eric Cantor

E. Wayne Powell

Republican Eric Cantor is one of America’s best-known Congressmen – the House Majority Leader who clashed with President Obama, blocking a compromise on the debt ceiling.  As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, which oversees healthcare and tax law, he’s collected more than $6 million in campaign contributions over the last two years, and his district is solidly Republican. Even so, the 12-year incumbent faces a serious challenge from political newcomer Wayne Powell.  Sandy Hausman reports on what divides the candidates in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, and why Powell thinks he can win.

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History of Virginia’s First House

Virginia’s Executive Mansion was the backdrop for the roll-out of a new, illustrated book about the 200-year-old house itself.  Joined by best-selling author David Baldacci, First Lady Maureen McDonnell and other dignitaries unveiled “First House,” which traces the history of the building and the stories of the 54 families who have lived there.   And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the legacy of the oldest Governor’s house still used as a residence is now preserved for posterity.


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Virginia Conversations: Power of Poetry

On this edition of  the program,  the importance of poetry in our lives… and two women charged with keeping that mission alive. Host May-Lily Lee talks to Virginia’s new poet laureate, Sofia Starnes, and past poet laureate, Kelly Cherry.  They’ll share some of their own work, and we’ll hear from other poets in the state as well.

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The Dalai Lama Visits

The Dalai Lama was in Charlottesville, collecting a key to the city and offering his key ideas for making the 21st century a happier time for human kind. Sandy Hausman reports from the pavilion where  he spoke to the public.

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Chicken Trauma

Something’s gone afoul on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, and the Department of Environmental Quality is scrambling to figure out what it is.  As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, since early this week they’ve been investigating news of chicken parts falling out of the sky and hitting a riding student in the head.

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Year Round Schools

A new study by the General Assembly’s watchdog agency suggests that year-round Virginia schools have significantly improved SOL scores for specific student subgroups.  But as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, when lawmakers return to work in January, they will need to decide whether or not it’s worth investing more money into programs that do not benefit the majority of students.

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Sequestration Talks

Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner is hosting a retreat this week for a bipartisan group of senators to discuss ways to divert massive budget cuts slated for the nation. Partisan wrangling over raising the nation’s debt ceiling not only led to the U.S. credit rating being downgraded, it also set up sequestration: a mechanism to cut hundreds of billions of dollars from the federal budget if lawmakers don not hammer out a deal. That hatchet is slated to fall in January.

Senator Warner says even in the midst of this year’s elections it is important for him and a bipartisan group of lawmakers to try to divert those cuts.  “What I fear the most is going through the kind of kabuki dance that leads us to the eleventh hour where you then end up with a product that looks like the debt ceiling product.”

Warner and the others are being closed-lipped on the deal they are discussing behind closed-doors, but he is offering at least one hint. “And if there’s a memo to us going forward: don’t set up a default mechanism that you can’t live with.”

Warner and the others are not disclosing where the retreat will be located, and they are not expected to unveil any product until after this year’s elections.

-by Matt Laslo

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Child Victims & Restitution

Those who advocate for the victims of child sexual abuse and pornography have been tracking the outcomes of civil suits filed by the victims nationwide. They say it’s evident that without tough laws such as the one passed in Virginia last year, convicted offenders would have more protections than the children they prey upon.  But as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, the trends also call into question whether or not the Commonwealth’s prosecutors are using the law that requires offenders to pay restitution—or if victims even know they have the right to demand it.


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Virginia Conversations: Where Are They Now?

           On this edition of Virginia Conversations, we catch up with four Virginians you might remember.  Chuck Robb explains why he didn’t want to follow in his father-in-law’s footsteps to the White House.  Jim Gilmore weighs in on the current version of car tax relief.
Oliver North, for the first time, talks about the day terrorists showed up at his house to kill him and his family.  And John Warner describes a blind date with an actress named Elizabeth Taylor. Join host May-Lily Lee, for Virginia Conversations.

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Energy Conference

“Energy Capitol of the East Coast” …that phrase has been tossed around by the McDonnell administration since Governor McDonnell took office– but some are questioning whether Virginia can actually achieve that status, if it doesn’t start tapping into alternative energy resources soon. During the Governor’s third annual Conference on Energy, stakeholders said they do believe there are steps the Commonwealth can take to position itself better than other states.  Tommie McNeil has more.

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Swing State Tour

After the first presidential debate wrapped up in Denver both candidates are turning their attention to Virginia. Mitt Romney campaigned in Fishersville, Virginia Thursday and both candidates will be in the state Friday.

While both presidential candidates took advantage of their trip to Colorado to court voters in western states, they also never took their eyes off independent voters in Virginia. That might be most evident in former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s comments on U-S energy policy.

“And by the way. I like coal. I’m going to make sure we continue to burn clean coal. People in the coal industry feel like it’s getting crushed by your policies.”

Mr. Romney will be bringing that message to Virginia’s western coal fields at the end of this week. While he makes his pitch there, President Obama will continue his effort to energize college students that proved a crucial voting block in his 2008 victory. To wrap up the week Mr. Obama will bespeaking at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia where he’ll likely tout the reforms to student loans he brought up in the debate.

“What we’ve been able to do is provide millions more students assistance. Lower, or keep low, interest rates on student loans. And this is an example of where our priorities make a difference.”

As the race heats up one thing is clear: neither campaign is taking Virginia voters for granted.

— Matt Laslo

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History of Suffrage in Virginia

The Library of Virginia and League of Women Voters are a few of the organizations hoping that recounting some history will awaken the state’s voters.  As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, they particularly want to target the women who aren’t the fervent ballot-casting activists they used to be.

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Universal Design

Making things easier for people with special needs ends up benefitting everyone.  That’s the philosophy behind the push toward what’s known as ‘universal design.”  It’s no longer about making special accommodations for people with disabilities, but creating spaces that are more functional for everyone. Robbie Harris has details.

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Inmates & Medical Care

Later this month, on October 17, a judge will hear opening arguments in a lawsuit against the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women.  Inmates claim their medical care is inadequate – that they pay $5 per visit but sometimes wait several months to see a doctor. Sandy Hausman has more on that story.

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Forensic Testing

State forensic lab technicians have been working at a frenetic pace to keep up with the demand for testimony at criminal trials and also to test the chemicals used by purveyors of intoxicating drugs to skirt Virginia laws.   State officials say juggling schedules, installing new equipment, and revising statutes have all helped.  But as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, they don’t expect the pace to slow down anytime soon.

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