Kenney named superintendent of Shenandoah National Park, Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historic Park

National Park ServicePatrick Kenney has been named the new superintendent of Shenandoah National Park and Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park.

“Shenandoah is one of the most iconic of our national park sites,” NPS Regional Director Gay Vietzke said. “Its vast size is both a treasure and a great responsibility. Shenandoah will be in good hands with Patrick, who has the experience of managing sizable operations at large parks. He will be up to the task of handling new projects that are possible thanks to the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act.”

“I am honored by the opportunity to serve at Shenandoah National Park” Kenney said. “Exceptional projects, programs, and partnerships are underway, due in large measure to the vision and the dedication of the park staff. I look forward to working on efforts to preserve the park’s natural and cultural resources and enhance the visitor experience of our public lands. Shenandoah National Park has an extraordinary legacy that is in place for all seasons and for all peoples.”

Kenney will also manage Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park, a partnership park created in 2002.

“I look forward to working with staff and outstanding partners to tell the complex stories of Cedar Creek, Belle Grove, and the Shenandoah Valley,” Kenney said.

Kenney has served as the deputy superintendent of Yellowstone National Park since 2017. He manages the operations of 2.2 million acres, a staff of approximately 800 and an annual base budget of $35 million. Prior to Yellowstone, he was named superintendent of Cape Lookout National Seashore in 2011.

There he improved access to the park through the awarding of a ferry service contract, establishing two gateways and the opening of the Beaufort Visitor Information Center.

Prior to managing Cape Lookout, Kenney served as the Planning Branch Chief at the NPS Denver Service Center. He began his NPS career in 1990 at Big Cypress National Preserve as a natural resource manager. He was effective at obtaining funding and successfully completing numerous natural resource restoration projects, as well as being involved in an array of planning issues within the preserve.

Kenney has a bachelor of science in zoology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute – Leadership for Democratic Society and is a Project Management Institute-certified project manager.

Chesapeake Conservancy launches new podcast, ‘Chesapeake Conversations’

chesapeake conservancyChesapeake Conservancy has released a new podcast called “Chesapeake Conversations,” hosted by Joel Dunn, president and CEO of Chesapeake Conservancy.

Cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay is one of the largest and longest running ecosystem restoration efforts in the world. Over the last 50 years, we’ve invested billions to restore the Bay, and the world is watching to see how the Chesapeake responds. Chesapeake Conversations takes an in-depth look at what’s working for the Chesapeake — and what’s not.

From the podcast trailer, “Hi, I’m Joel Dunn, President & CEO of the Chesapeake Conservancy. I’m recording this at home. In my basement. Because I’m hunkered down with my family here in Annapolis, Maryland, practicing social distancing, and trying my best to keep us healthy. It’s given me time to think…not only about our own health but of the health of our environment. What will the future look like for our children?

“It’s no secret the Chesapeake Bay has been the focus of concerted conservation efforts for decades. Our progress ebbs and flows, as we face new challenges every day, but we’re also innovating new solutions every day.

“I wanted to share with you my thoughts on this journey. Through this podcast, I’ll give you the ins and outs – our successes and setbacks – and what the future might hold. Because the Chesapeake Conversations. Subscribe now.”

The podcast is launching with four episodes and new episodes will be posted featuring conversations with leaders in the conservation movement.

Subscribe now wherever you find your podcasts, or listen to an episode at www.chesapeakeconservancy.org, direct link: www.chesapeakeconservancy.org/chesapeake-conversations-podcast/.

Beyer: Trump’s executive orders will not avert economic disaster

Don BeyerRep. Don Beyer, the top-ranking member of the House on Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, issued the following statement on President Trump’s executive orders on the economy announced over the weekend.

“Beyond the constitutional and legal issues which the President’s Executive Orders raise, they are wholly inadequate to avert the economic disaster facing millions of American families. They are worse than nothing, since Administration figures like Mark Meadows may use them as a fig leaf to avoid striking a deal with Congress to provide actual public health and economic support to communities.

“Over the past six months I have spoken with many of the top economists and economic policymakers in the country about how to address this crisis, and the resounding message is that substantial government spending is needed to prevent a lengthy depression. They point again and again to the need for strong and sustained unemployment supports, and the need to help state and local governments replace lost revenue to prevent mass public sector layoffs and the slashing of critical services.

“President Trump’s smoke and mirrors will not repair the economic damage the country has sustained. Anything less than a broad economic aid package will fail to put us on the road to a recovery.”

Warner, Kaine announce $9M for affordable housing in Virginia

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U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $8,978,420 in federal funding to help Virginians access affordable housing across the Commonwealth.

The funding was awarded through the Housing Choice Voucher Program and authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act supported by Warner and Kaine.

“As housing insecurity continues to rise for many Virginians, now more than ever, Congress needs to offer critical assistance to those in need,” the senators said. “We’re pleased to announce these federal funds that will go directly towards supporting some of the most vulnerable communities right now.”

Through the CARES Act, Congress provided $1.25 billion for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance, which funds the Housing Choice Voucher program that helps lower-income families, the elderly, and disabled individuals afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing. This funding includes $400 million for increased subsidy costs and $850 million for administrative and other expenses incurred by public housing authorities (PHAs), including activities to support or maintain the health and safety of assisted individuals and families, and costs related to retention and support of participating owners.

The funding will be awarded as below:

Abingdon Redevelopment and Housing Authority                  Abingdon                  14,067

Accomack-Northampton Regional Housing Authority             Accomack                  70,053

Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority                    Alexandria                384,750

Arlington County Dept. of Human Services                               Arlington                   382,489

Big Stone Gap Redevelopment and Housing Auth.                   Big Stone Gap           14,895

Bristol Redevelopment & Housing Authority                            Bristol                         44,015

Buckingham Housing Development Corp. Inc.                          New Canton              12,112

Charlottesville Redevelopment & Housing Authority              Charlottesville          60,969

Chesapeake Redevelopment & Housing Authority                   Chesapeake               273,293

County of Albemarle/Office of Housing                                     Charlottesville          68,308

Covington Redevelopment & Housing Authority                     Covington                 6,188

Danville Redevelopment & Housing Authority                         Danville                     202,837

Fairfax County Redevelopment & Housing Authority             Fairfax                        1,343,712

Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority                     Franklin                     39,053

Hampton Redevelopment & Housing Authority                       Hampton                   546,358

Harrisonburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority               Harrisonburg            118,122

Hopewell Redevelopment & Housing Authority                      Hopewell                   83,304

James City County Office of Housing                                          Williamsburg            26,718

Lee County Redevelopment & Housing Authority                   Jonesville                   60,122

Loudoun County Department of Family Services                     Leesburg                   141,428

Lynchburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority                    Lynchburg                102,166

Marion Redevelopment & Housing Authority                           Marion                       32,611

Newport News Redevelopment & Housing Authority             Newport News         457,534

Norfolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority                          Norfolk                      670,205

Norton Redevelopment & Housing Authority                           Norton                       13,554

People Inc. of Southwest Virginia                                                 Abingdon                  18,907

Petersburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority                     Petersburg                120,138

Portsmouth Redevelopment & Housing Authority                   Portsmouth               332,279

Prince William County Office of Housing and Community Development                                                                                                                           Woodbridge              467,993

Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority                     Richmond                  506,406

Roanoke Redevelopment & Housing Authority                         Roanoke                     250,704

Scott County Redevelopment & Housing Authority                 Duffield                     28,438

Staunton Redevelopment & Housing Authority                        Staunton                   26,821

Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority                       Suffolk                       158,077

Virginia Beach Dept. of Housing & Neighborhood Pres.         Virginia Beach          363,274

Virginia Housing Development Authority                                 Richmond                  1,381,408

Waynesboro Redevelopment & Housing Authority                 Waynesboro              46,973

Wise County Redevelopment & Housing Authority                 Coeburn                    90,291

Wytheville Redevelopment & Housing Authority                    Wytheville                17,848

 

Virginia Cooperative Extension helps farmers by providing mental health resources

By Max Esterhuizen

virginia cooperative extensionIn 2019, Jeremy Daubert, Virginia Cooperative Extension agent in Rockingham County, was giving a workshop to producers on how to deal with the stressors of farm life.

The challenges were many – from dropping prices and decreased sales to lost income and longer hours – and Daubert wanted to help farmers know they weren’t alone facing these issues.

There were resources to help, agencies to lean on, and others who were dealing with the exact same obstacles.

One of the farmers came up to Daubert after the session and thanked him for the insight and mental health resources that Extension has been providing to help them manage their stressors.

“We have farmers who have gone through our trainings who are walking away with feeling a little more recognized and valued because farm stress programming is more accessible to them,” said Kim Niewolny, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education and director of the Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation and the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition. “Farmers have shared with our team that they are receiving the critical resources they need. It is important they have a technical assistance community to turn to for help, which is a huge step forward.”

Such sessions — and training others on how to provide them — have gone on in scores of localities across the commonwealth over the past couple of years.

Stress and uncertainty existed before COVID-19, which amplified existing concerns for some farmers. About two years ago, the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition, with Extension as its foundation, launched programming on farm safety and mental health for new and existing farmers in partnership with AgrAbility, Virginia State University’s Small Farm Outreach Pogrom, Farm Bureau, the Farmer Veteran Coalition, and others.

Listening sessions conducted with Extension professionals statewide helped generate a Southern Extension Risk Management Education grant to fund outcomes of improving the health and wellness of farmers with a focus on addressing the needs of historically underserved farmers in the commonwealth. The project has grown into the Farm Safety, Health, and Wellness Initiative through Extension.

The team has published several mental health resources, implemented two Farm Dinner Theaters on farm stress and safety, and partnered with the Farm Stress Task Force led by Jewel Bronaugh, commissioner of agriculture.

Identification of potential anxiety and stress is a major component of helping farmers, and to that end, Extension sent agents to a training session at Michigan State University last year to offer farm stress programs in the commonwealth, not only for farmers but also for the people who interact with farmers frequently, a significant component to the Farm Safety, Health, and Wellness Initiative.

Extension agents and professional agency partners who have gone through trainings or webinars over the past year have shared that they are now more aware, comfortable, and skilled in identifying critical mental health needs of farmers and farm family members in their communities. This includes agents having much-needed tools for talking to and providing referrals for farmers and family members who may need professional support and health care interventions.

Cynthia Martel, Extension agent in Franklin County, and Daubert were sent to the two-day training session on how to help farmers and how to teach those who interact with them to see signs of stress, anxiety, or depression. Two other Extension agents are currently being trained to further bolster Extension’s efforts.

“This is important because there are a lot of farmers and people who interact with them, and this is a challenging subject – it’s not one people want to talk about,” Daubert said. “We’re trying to get the tools out to people to help them because the agriculture economy has been challenging for the last five years. Farming is stressful to start with; now we have COVID-19 on top of that. It’s just a lot of things stacking on top of each other, and we want to be able to help.”

Before COVID-19, that help was in the form of day-long training sessions, which have since gone online. Daubert and Martel created since training videos, one for the farmers and one for those who interact with them.

Identifying stress early in farmers is critical; the training session for people that works with farmers covers causes of stress, identifiers, market prices and trends, and more. Farmers are also taught how to recognize signs of stress in themselves and understanding how they react to stress.

Once they have an understanding of how they react to stress they are taught methods to mitigate it, whether it’s physical, such as exercising, stopping and taking deep breaths, or being more aware of their thoughts. Because it’s important for spouses and children to understand and identify any mental health issues, it’s encouraged that they attend the sessions as well.

“The last thing we talk about is suicide. We’re trying to encourage people to break the stigmatism about mental health. It’s a good thing to let people know that you need the help,” Martel said. “If you think somebody is in a stressful situation that has now gone to depression and you think that they could be somebody that is suicidal, be open with them and ask them the question.”

The goal is not to act as a health professional, but rather acting as a referrer to professional services, similar to providing first-aid to an injury before seeking medical care.

“We have to remember that agents are not health care professionals,” Niewolny said. “However, our Extension community is able to provide culturally responsive education and first-hand support with referral services when those needs are apparent. At the end of the day, being able to listen, read the signs, and to have referral system in place is crucial.”

Extension agents are still meeting one-on-one with farmers, following social distancing guidelines, keeping vital interaction going with farmers during COVID-19. It’s also a way for agents to check on the wellbeing of farmers, their farms, and their families.

“If you can save one life, then it’s worth it. It may be somebody I gave the presentation to you or it may be someone they know – and that’s great. We just want to provide resources to help farmers through difficult times,” Daubert said.

Spanberger announces $1.1M for Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority training program

Abigail SpanbergerRep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) today announced a federal grant totaling $1,185,880 for the Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority’s network of Area Health Education Centers.

This additional funding will be used to support existing healthcare workforce development and recruitment efforts across Virginia, as well as to offer continuing education for healthcare professionals on topics ranging from the integration of substance use disorder screening and interventions into primary care to improvements in how the workforce can address social determinants of health.

“If our communities and our country truly want to keep our citizens healthy and safe, we must invest in a strong, resilient, and diverse healthcare workforce. This reality has been made abundantly clear by the selfless, around-the-clock contributions of doctors, nurses, and long-term care workers during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Spanberger. “Virginia’s hospitals, health systems, and Community Health Centers provide opportunities for Virginia students to build long and successful careers in our region’s health sector, and this HRSA funding will ensure our Commonwealth can help chart and inspire these career paths for more of Virginia’s young people — including in our minority and undeserved communities. AHEC programs have a demonstrated record of success, and I’d like to thank the Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority for its steady focus on fostering the talents of the next generation of healthcare workers.”

The Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority recognizes the urgency to recruit and retain a sufficient health workforce for Virginia, and we are pleased to receive to aid in our efforts this continued funding from HRSA,” said Keisha Smith, Executive Director, VHWDA; Director, Virginia AHEC program. “These funds will support the critical work of the 8 regional AHEC centers as we continue our initiative to increase diversity among health professionals, broaden the distribution of the health workforce, enhance health care quality, and improve health care delivery to our most prohibited populations.”

Through eight AHECs across the Commonwealth, the VHWDA helps identify, recruit, and retain healthcare professionals. In March 2020, Spanberger voted to pass the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provided millions of dollars in additional funding for AHEC programs like those in Virginia.

The $1,185,880 award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be dispersed through HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration.

Route 731 in Albemarle County closed for emergency bridge repairs

transportation road work

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Route 731 (Keswick Road) in Albemarle County was closed Monday for emergency repairs to a bridge that was struck by a vehicle last week.

The bridge, over the Norfolk-Southern Railroad, is between Little Keswick Lane and Llama Lane.

Repairs will entail replacing steel posts and railing damaged in the crash, which will require removing some of the timber decking to access the rail posts.

The repairs are expected to be complete and the bridge reopened to traffic by Friday.

Traffic should detour around the closure by following Route 22 (Louisa Road) to Route 744 (Hunt Club Road) and back to Route 731.

Current traffic conditions and other real-time travel information can be found on the 511 Virginia website, the free VDOT 511 mobile app or by calling 511 from any phone in Virginia.

VDOT updates are also on Facebook and the district’s Twitter account, @VaDOTCulp.

 

Augusta County: Pre-filled mail ballot application OK to use

vote 2020 election

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Many voters have received a pre-filled mail ballot application from the Center for Voter Information. The form can be used by voters in Augusta County to request a ballot for the Nov. 3 General Election.

Voters can return the application in the provided envelope. It will be delivered directly to the Augusta County Voter Registration Office for processing.

While there are reports of inaccurate information in other Virginia localities, the ones in Augusta appear correct. The Center for Voter Information is an independent organization not affiliated with the Augusta County Voter Registration Office or the Virginia Department of Elections.

You may also apply online for a ballot to vote by mail directly with the Virginia Department of Elections.  As of July 1, 2020, voters do not need a reason to apply for an absentee mail ballot. You can also contact the county Voter Registration Office at 540-245-5656 or registrar@co.augusta.va.us or drop by the office at the Government Center in Verona.

The office can answer your questions and help you through the vote by mail process.

If you already applied to vote by mail, you can check to see if your absentee application was received by going to the Citizen Portal for the Virginia Department of Elections.

Voters who have submitted a request for a mail ballot for November do not need to submit another request. Mail-in, absentee ballots will be sent to voters the week of September 18.

Street Knowledge: Will there be college football in 2020?


 

About Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the editor of The Augusta Free Press, an award-winning journalist and editor, is a 1994 graduate of the University of Virginia, and has covered Virginia politics since 1997.

An author of seven books, Chris co-wrote Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championshippublished in 2019, and also co-wrote a book on the history of University of Virginia basketball, Mad About U: Four Decades of Basketball at University Hall, which was published in 2006.

Chris has covered University of Virginia sports since 1995, and is a sports broadcaster with experience as a play-by-play man and color analyst on ESPN3 and ESPN+ broadcasts of college baseball, college football, collegiate wrestling and women’s water polo.

This fall, Chris will serve as the play-by-play voice on radio broadcasts for VMI football, marking his fifth season as a broadcaster for Keydets’ radio broadcasts.

He is a member of the Football Writers Assocation of America, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.

From 2009-2014, Chris was the play-by-play voice of the Waynesboro Generals, a team competing in the Valley Baseball League, a premier college summer baseball league affiliated with Major League Baseball and the NCAA.

The former co-host of ACC Nation, a syndicated radio show that ran for four years, ending in 2007, and regular guest host of WMRA’s Virginia Insight, Chris is currently a contributor to The Mark Moses Show on 95.9-The Fan in Melbourne, Fla.

Chris also served as a member of the creative team and on-air TV commentator for Awesome Wrestling Entertainment on AWE’s Night of the Legends live pay-per-view event in 2011.

Chris wrote a book on that experience, The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, that was published in 2018.

He is also the former co-host of Viewpoints on WVPT, a weekly news affairs TV show that aired from 2016-2017.

About Scott German

Scott German covers UVA Athletics for AFP, and is the co-host of “Street Knowledge” podcasts focusing on UVA Athletics with AFP editor Chris Graham. Scott has been around the ‘Hoos his whole life. As a reporter, he was on site for UVA basketball’s Final Fours, in 1981 and 1984, and has covered UVA football in bowl games dating back to its first, the 1984 Peach Bowl.

UVA’s Mendenhall describes what it takes to practice through COVID-19

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UVA football coach Bronco Mendenhall. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

Will there be a college football season in the fall? Maybe, maybe not. It won’t be for lack of trying, from what UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall described to reporters on Monday.

We can’t cover practices right now, for obvious reasons, so what we get is photos and Mendenhall telling us what we’re seeing in them.

The coaches are masked; the players either in full face visors, or a hybrid visor with a cloth mask over the face mask.

The simple protocol before each play: a play isn’t run until everyone is properly spaced.

“The players put their arms out. If they touch anyone, I don’t run the play until they’re spaced,” said Mendenhall, who from his telling sounds like he’s assigned himself the role of COVID-19 compliance officer on the staff.

“Each stage is requiring new protocols, right, a new emphasis, and so on. Most of my thoughts are managing that part so that the program can actually go forward with the strategic elements. But almost all my time is nothing other than the management of the virus at this point,” Mendenhall said.

If there is a season, the defending ACC Coastal champs will welcome an influx of transfers who became available when it became apparent that their schools wouldn’t be fielding teams this fall.

Talented Central Michigan tight end Tony Poljan, for starters. Former FCS All-American tailback Shane Simpson. A pair of JMU stars, defensive back D’Angelo Amos and defensive lineman Adeeb Atariwa.

“It’s probably the most NFL-like thing that I’ve ever been through as a college coach. Almost, you know, like free agency and waivers,” Mendenhall said.

Getting the new guys acclimated in this environment is another challenge, but one that you’d welcome, given the level of talents that have made themselves available.

“Should we play, depth is going to be at a premium. Having this deep of roster as you can have with as good players, with some of the unknowns that might manifest, it just seemed to be a win for for everyone involved, and that’s that was the motive behind that,” Mendenhall said.

Story by Chris Graham

UVA Athletics COVID-19 update: No new cases

new uva logoVirginia Athletics reported today on its fourth round of COVID-19 testing, which again produced no new positive tests.

Since testing started with the return of the UVA football team on July 5, a total of 238 student-athletes have been tested for COVID-19. Four student-athletes have produced a positive test. Since its return to Grounds, the UVA football team has had 112 student-athletes tested and there have been three positive results, none since the July 24 report.

None of the student-athletes who tested positive have required hospitalization.

Student-athletes from the sports of men’s basketball, women’s basketball, field hockey, football, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and volleyball are back on Grounds to resume preseason training and conditioning.

Information from Virginia Athletics

Analysis: Flu season not slowing down, despite COVID-19

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Odd anomaly in the public health numbers: involving how there have now been more flu and pneumonia deaths than COVID-19 deaths in Virginia since mid-March.

It was close the last time we took a dive into the numbers, from the Virginia Department of Health website, back in mid-July.

As of our July 15 report, there had been 1,992 COVID-19 deaths reported in the Commonwealth since March 14, and 1,940 flu and pneumonia deaths.

Updating the numbers from today’s reports from VDH, and the tally is at 2,353 flu and pneumonia deaths since March 14, and 2,327 COVID-19 deaths.

Doing the math on this, you see that since July 15, the number of flu and pneumonia deaths stands at 413, with the number of COVID-19 deaths since July 15 at 335.

This is a reflection that we’re continuing to have our normal busy flu season, as if COVID-19 wasn’t around to distract our attention.

According to VDH, the death toll in the 2019-2020 flu season now stands at 4,419, with eight weeks to go.

We may very well see the 2019-2020 season surpass the average number of deaths from the 2014-2019 flu seasons, at 4,914.

What’s interesting here is, you’d think that all the social distancing that we did back from mid-March to mid-May, before Northam started relaxing the stay-at-home restrictions, would have had an impact on the flu season.

Might this portend a more manageable than currently projected 2020-2021 flu season here?

The fear has been that the coming flu season could be devastating if we get another COVID-19 spike corresponding with the height of the normal seasonal flu.

It bears repeating that our review of the data suggests that it might not be as bad this fall and winter as the experts are saying, or to put it another way, whatever the coming fall and winter have to bring, we already have experience dealing with, and everything that we have to bring to bear from a public health perspective to combat competing viruses – in terms of ER, in-patient bed and ICU capacity – has already passed the test.

Story by Chris Graham

Virginia Tech adds Villanova wideout Changa Hodge to wide-receiver corps

virginia tech sportsVirginia Tech coach Justin Fuente confirmed Monday the addition of wide receiver Changa Hodge  to Tech’s roster.

The 6’1″, 200-pound Hodge led Villanova in receiving a year ago and was one of the most dynamic receivers at the FCS level in 2019, posting 65 catches and going over the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career, with 1,118 yards and 13 TDs. Those 13 TDs tied for sixth among FCS players while his 1,118 yards tied for 14th.

The East Stroudsburg, Pa., native played in 31 games for the Wildcats in four seasons, including an injury-shortened 2017 campaign. He totaled 99 catches for 1,685 yards (17.0 avg.) with 15 TDs. Hodge registered five 100-yard receiving games at Villanova, including an eight-catch, 236-yard outburst with four TDs vs. Delaware (11/23/19).

Inside the Numbers: Not much going on with COVID-19 in Virginia

Virginia covid-19

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If it seems that it’s gotten quiet on the COVID-19 front in Virginia lately, that’s because it kinda has.

The total case count as we approach the five-month mark of the public health response to the virus whose origins in the States now dates to late 2019 passed the 100,000 mark over the weekend, but you blinked, and therefore missed it.

The seven-day moving average of new reported cases, which of course are a week to 10 days old by the time they get counted, but still, that’s the metric, is at 1,092 as today’s accounting from the Virginia Department of Health.

The number of new cases reported today was at a recent low: 663.

Populous Northern Virginia, which went through a spike in May, still opened up later that month, and has been in decline since, has a seven-day moving average of new cases at 238.

The Hampton Roads region, which had its own spike more recently, resulting in a half-hearted response from Gov. Ralph Northam that closed off alcohol sales in restaurants at 10 p.m. and reduced capacities in eating establishments to 50 percent, is down to 351 new reported cases in its seven-day moving average, down 27.4 percent from the July 25 peak of 483.

Less alcohol, sitting farther apart, and burnout, apparently, all factors there.

Hospitals in Virginia, never taxed anywhere near the levels seen in New York City back in late March, remain in the upper 70s in terms of utilization. VDH reports 12,775 hospital beds occupied today, 77.5 percent of the state’s capacity.

Of those, 1,251 are occupied by patients either confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19. That total is 7.6 percent of the overall system capacity.

All of those numbers – total hospitalizations, specific hospitalizations for people confirmed or suspected with COVID – have remained steady for several weeks.

On the local scene, the Augusta County-Staunton-Waynesboro area has reported a total of 606 COVID-19 cases since March, a remarkably low number, especially considering the local newspaper clickbait from early in the public health response reporting that Augusta Health would be overrun with patients dying in its corridors.

Six hundred six.

VDH reports 29 total hospitalizations from Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro in five months, with seven COVID-19 deaths.

Charlottesville and Albemarle County, which two weeks ago imposed local restrictions limiting restaurant capacity and the size of social gatherings through the end of September, have added a total of 234 new COVID-19 cases since those orders were handed down on July 27, an average of 16.7 new reported cases a day.

According to VDH, eight of those new cases have resulted in hospitalizations.

These would seem to be good trends, no?

Again, no doubt, it’s because of the restrictions, which we’ll agree with even knowing that case reports lag a week to 10 days, so it’s more likely the case that whatever has been happening was happening before the government acted.

As if that hasn’t been the case all along.

Story by Chris Graham

Four Liberty golfers to tee it up at U.S. Amateur

LibertyLiberty will have a program-record four players participating in the 2020 U.S. Amateur held this week at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Ore.

Ervin Chang, Alexandre Fuchs, Kieran Vincent and Jonathan Yaun will be among the talented amateur 264-player field at this year’s championship.

Liberty’s player tee times for Monday are Yaun (8:06 PST/11:06 EST), Vincent (1:36 PST/4:36 EST), Fuchs (1:58 PST/4:58 EST) and Chang (2:20 PST/5:20 EST).

The nation’s top amateur golf tournament consists of two days of stroke play on Monday and Tuesday, with the leading 64 competitors then playing a knockout competition held as match play to decide the champion.

All knockout matches are over 18 holes except for the final, which consists of 36 holes, separated into morning and afternoon 18-hole rounds on Sunday, Aug. 16.

The U.S. Amateur, one of the oldest championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association (USGA), is open to any amateur golfers who hold a USGA handicap index not exceeding 2.4.

Some of golf’s greatest golfers have added U.S. Amateur titles to their resume. Tiger Woods was a three-time champion (1994-95-96), Jack Nicklaus was a two-time winner (1959 and 1961) and Phil Mickelson was the 1990 title winner.

Bobby Jones was a five-time U.S. Amateur champion (1924-25-27-28-30). His championship in 1930 helped him become golf’s first-ever “Grand Slam” title holder back when the U.S. Amateur was one of golf’s major championships.

Staunton provides updates on response to weekend flooding

stauntonThe City of Staunton continues to actively respond to the flooding resulting from severe rainfall on Saturday.

The response has been greatly aided and accelerated by the overwhelming assistance of community members who have volunteered their time, talents and resources.

“We are extremely heartened by the generous and united response of our city coming together in an amazing show of teamwork to help friends, neighbors, and affected businesses in recovery efforts,” said Mayor Andrea Oakes.  “Even in the face of continuing community challenges, Staunton’s spirit stays strong and resilient.”

Please follow the City’s social media platforms –  www.facebook.com/CityofStaunton/ and twitter.com/StauntonCityVA – for the most up to date information.

How to Report Damage – email address now available:

  • Fire/rescue and building officials have completed an initial damage assessment across the city.
  • Individuals and businesses may report damage by telephone at 540.332.3960 or by email at floodreport@ci.staunton.va.us.
  • If you call, please be prepared to leave a voicemail message due to the expected high volume of calls.City staff will respond to your report as quickly as possible.Reports should include name, address and telephone number.   

Status of Street/Sidewalk Cleanup:

  • All streets in Staunton are open to vehicular traffic, but some sidewalks remain closed due to damage.Crews continue to work as quickly as possible to respond to widespread cleanup needs.
  • The city is continuing today with removal of mud and other debris in the downtown service district.

Trash Disposal/Pickup:

  • Curbside trash collection will continue Monday and Tuesday along Lewis, Central and Augusta streets between Churchville Avenue and Johnson Street; along Beverley Street between Lewis and Market streets; and on Byers Street.Debris should be placed curbside for collection.
  • Contractor hauls of flood debris will be accepted without charge at Augusta Regional Landfill through Saturday, August 14.
  • Individuals and businesses are strongly encouraged to remove debris and trash from outdoor collection points on their properties as quickly as possible.Rainfall is forecast in the days ahead, and remaining debris and trash increases the potential for additional flooding.

Public Parking/Public Facilities:

  • Due to continued flood impacts, the resumption of parking fees at city-operated parking facilities, originally planned for Tuesday, Aug. 11, will be postponed until Monday, Aug. 17.
  • Gypsy Hill Park is open to the public.However, visitors to the park should be aware that some areas including sidewalks and pedestrian bridges were impacted by the flooding and are inaccessible due to safety concerns.

Removal of Damaged/Abandoned Vehicles:

  • While many vehicles have been removed, owners are strongly encouraged to remove remaining vehicles that are blocking streets or sidewalks or other public areas as quickly as possible to facilitate flood cleanup and recovery efforts.Owners are responsible for making arrangements to have inoperable vehicles towed if necessary.

General Public Safety Information:

  • Drivers and pedestrians are encouraged to be observant and aware of areas that may still be impacted by debris or high water and to exercise caution when traveling through those areas and areas where crews are working.
  • City officials encourage individuals to continue to observe public health guidelines regarding face coverings and physical distancing as flood cleanup and recovery efforts continue.

ODU pulls plug on fall sports: Looking to spring

oduOld Dominion University athletics teams will not participate in fall sports, ODU President John R. Broderick announced Monday. 

“We concluded that the season – including travel and competition – posed too great a risk for our student-athletes,” Broderick said. “I know many on and off campus will be disappointed, but we must prioritize the health and safety of our student-athletes, as well as our coaches, staff and fans.”

The decision was made in concert with Athletics Director Wood Selig, coaches, medical and public health experts and state and local officials, he said.

“I want to compliment Dr. Selig for being such a thoughtful colleague,” Broderick said. “I know there are schools where this discussion has been complicated by other factors, but for Wood and me, it was just about health and safety.”

Selig said he hopes fall sports can be played in the spring, “but first and foremost it has to be safe for everyone involved and would also require NCAA approval.”

ODU is the 14th Football Bowl Subdivision school to announce it won’t play, following the University of Connecticut and the 12-team Mid-American Conference.

Field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball also won’t compete this fall. The volleyball team would have launched its inaugural season at ODU. Additionally, spring sports that play a modified fall season will also not play.

Broderick said Old Dominion’s decision was made to protect not only student-athletes, but also the staff and the greater Hampton Roads community.

“This is just right thing to do for everyone involved,” Selig said. “After making this decision, I already feel a sense of relief.

“We’re not like the NBA. We can’t put our athletes and coaches and fans in a bubble, and we don’t have unlimited resources.”

Although most students have yet to return, many of ODU’s fall athletes are on campus, either practicing or preparing for fall practice. President Broderick said it was time to end the uncertainty, especially for student-athletes, who carry a heavy burden academically.

This decision applies to fall sports but does not include men’s and women’s basketball and swimming, which are set to compete this winter.

Other in-state Division I institutions such as James Madison University, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Richmond, George Mason University, the College of William and Mary, Norfolk State University and Hampton University have already announced they will not play in the fall.

Women’s soccer coach Angie Hind said Broderick called her and other coaches seeking input. Hind told him she was most worried about interaction with other teams and the risk that would pose to her players.

“He asked me if I think we’re doing the right thing,” she said. “He wanted to know how the athletes feel.

“I know that doesn’t happen everywhere. I talked to some of my colleagues at other schools who said they’ve been left in the dark. The president made the right decision, and I think it’s outstanding that we all had a say.”

First-year football coach Ricky Rahne said the safety of his players is paramount.

“As we continue to navigate these uncertain times, our staff will continue to find creative and safe ways to develop our players,” he said. “The health and safety of our players will remain a priority for our football program and our University.”

ODU football season ticket holders will be contacted this week and asked to select one of three options: credit their ticket and seat membership payment to date toward the 2021 season, transfer their payment to date into a tax-deductible contribution to the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation or receive a refund.

Selig is encouraging ODU fans to turn their payments into donations, if they can afford to.

“We’re asking those who can help us to please do so,” he said. “Donations will be used to pay for scholarships for all of our athletes.

“Our fans have been so generous and loyal to us through the years. But we need their help this year more than ever.”

All fans who purchased season tickets for the inaugural season in S.B. Ballard Stadium in 2019 can reclaim their seats and location in 2021 regardless of whether they purchased tickets for the 2020 season.

Joe Harris pours in 25 for Nets in win over Clippers

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Joe Harris scored 16 of his 25 points to key a 45-point Brooklyn outburst in the first quarter, and the Nets rode a big early lead to a 129-120 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.

The Nets shot a blistering 18-of-21 from the floor in the first quarter, with Harris, a 2014 UVA alum, connecting on all six of his shot attempts.

Harris had 23 by the half, but was limited by foul trouble late, and he fouled out with 1:54 to go.

Harris finished 10-of-16 from the field and 5-of-8 from three-point range on the night.

Since the NBA’s return on July 31, Harris is averaging 20.2 points per game, shooting 61.5 percent from the floor and 57.6 percent from three.

Harris is one of two former ‘Hoos averaging 20+ points per game in the NBA restart. Malcolm Brogdon, a 2016 UVA alum now playing for the Indiana Pacers, is averaging 20.3 points, 6.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game since the NBA’s return, shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range.

Story by Chris Graham

Herring, coalition of state AGs, pushing Trump administration on 2020 Census

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A coalition of state attorneys general is challenging the Trump administration’s approach to the 2020 Census that they say will alter representation in Congress.

“This is the second time that President Trump has attempted to sabotage the census and illegally exclude millions from being counted,” said Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a member of the coalition filing a motion for partial summary judgment or, alternatively, a preliminary injunction in their lawsuit to block the administration’s attempts to leave millions out of the population.

“The number of people who are counted as part of the census directly impacts the number of congressional representatives each state has and every single person living in Virginia and across the country deserves to be included and represented. I will continue to try and block every one of the Trump administration’s illegal attempts to politicize and undermine the census,” said Herring, who was part of a similar effort that last month filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the administration from politicizing the census and violating basic constitutional commands, and aiming instead to ensure the administration counts the “whole number of persons” residing in the country for apportionment, as the U.S. Constitution unambiguously requires.

The Fourteenth Amendment states that “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State…” The framers of the Fourteenth Amendment deliberately chose the phrase “whole number of persons” to refer to all persons living in each state — including the entire immigrant population.

More than 150 years of history, practice, and judicial and administrative precedents have since further confirmed that the apportionment of representatives must be based on all persons living in each state, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status.

Previously, Herring successfully blocked the administration’s attempts to sabotage the census with a poison pill citizenship inquiry that was clearly designed to suppress response rates especially among immigrant communities.

Herring and his colleagues sued the Department of Commerce in April 2018 to protect the census, and successfully argued that the Trump Administration was not being honest about its motivations for including a citizenship question.

 

Gas prices fall slightly in Virginia: Back under $2 per gallon

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Virginia gas prices have fallen 1.1 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $1.98/gallon today, according to GasBuddy’s daily survey of 4,081 stations.

After weeks of steady increases, prices have been in a holding pattern of late, reflecting uncertainty in the economic recovery from the spring downturn resulting from the public health response to COVID-19.

“Gas prices have remained in very familiar territory for the sixth straight week as gasoline demand fell slightly last week, keeping oil prices confined as forces prevent it from falling under $39 but also from breaching $42 per barrel. However, as summer begins to fade, demand recovery may be limited, and there’s a possibility we may see more downside potential in the last quarter of the year,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.

“Traditionally, gasoline demand weakens into the autumn, and as the coronavirus situation keeps more kids home and more parents from work, we may see a drop in gas prices as we progress through fall. However, since no one can predict when we may rebound from the coronavirus situation, nothing long-term is set in stone, but we are on track for a seventh straight week of stable gas prices,” De Haan said.

Gas prices in Virginia are 3.3 cents per gallon lower than a month ago and stand 47.0 cents per gallon lower than a year ago.

The national average price of gasoline also fell 1.1 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $2.16/g today. The national average is down 3.5 cents per gallon from a month ago and stands 47.7 cents per gallon lower than a year ago.

Historical gasoline prices in Virginia and the national average going back ten years:

  • August 10, 2019: $2.45/g (U.S. Average: $2.64/g)
  • August 10, 2018: $2.63/g (U.S. Average: $2.86/g)
  • August 10, 2017: $2.16/g (U.S. Average: $2.35/g)
  • August 10, 2016: $1.91/g (U.S. Average: $2.13/g)
  • August 10, 2015: $2.39/g (U.S. Average: $2.59/g)
  • August 10, 2014: $3.26/g (U.S. Average: $3.48/g)
  • August 10, 2013: $3.40/g (U.S. Average: $3.55/g)
  • August 10, 2012: $3.53/g (U.S. Average: $3.67/g)
  • August 10, 2011: $3.53/g (U.S. Average: $3.62/g)
  • August 10, 2010: $2.63/g (U.S. Average: $2.76/g)

Neighboring areas and their current gas prices:

  • Roanoke- $1.95/g, down 1.2 cents per gallon from last week’s $1.97/g.
  • Richmond- $1.96/g, down 0.9 cents per gallon from last week’s $1.97/g.
  • West Virginia- $2.08/g, down 2.7 cents per gallon from last week’s $2.10/g.

GasBuddy is the authoritative voice for gas prices and the only source for station-level data spanning nearly two decades. Unlike AAA’s once daily survey covering credit card transactions at 100,000 stations and the Lundberg Survey, updated once every two weeks based on 7,000 gas stations, GasBuddy’s survey updates 288 times every day from the most diverse list of sources covering nearly 150,000 stations nationwide, the most comprehensive and up-to-date in the country.

GasBuddy data is accessible at FuelInsights.GasBuddy.com.

Inmates have won reduced sentences under First Step Act

By Dayne Phillips

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With an ever-growing prison population within the United States, many lawmakers are beginning to push legislation to improve the standards for release within the criminal justice system. As substances are legalized, such as marijuana in most states across the country, and other crimes are reevaluated for the sentence that must be served, lawmakers are now pursuing laws that would improve the lives of the millions of Americans serving sentences in jails and prisons.

The First Step Act, or FSA, is one of these pieces of legislation. The FSA aims to implement a broad range of changes to America’s prison system in hopes of reducing recidivism and improving inmate reintegration into society. Since President Donald Trump signed this act into law in 2018, it appears that court orders have reduced more than 2,400 prison sentences. Additionally, it also appears that more than 3,000 inmates have been released on good behavior and more than 120 terminally ill inmates have received compassionate releases.

While early releases are one of the FSA’s most visible reforms, the law also includes many more provisions that aim at better outcomes for the criminal justice system from the perspective of people who were recently released from prison.  For example, the act requires the Federal Bureau of Prisons, or BOP, to house inmates as close to their homes as possible. It also forbids the use of restraints on pregnant inmates, orders the BOP to provide inmates with feminine hygiene products, and bans solitary confinement for juvenile inmates.

The FSA also initiates several sentencing reforms to ease the strain on both the people and the prison systems within the country. It reduces mandatory minimum sentences for drug traffickers, causing those with no prior conviction to no longer face up to life imprisonment. The act also works to address the racial disparities in crack cocaine sentences, allowing inmates with crack-related convictions to petition for reduced prison time.

Although the First Step Act received bipartisan support in Congress, it is not without its critics. One controversial provision within the FSA requires the Justice Department to develop a mathematical tool to address an inmate’s risk of reconviction. The Justice Department asked the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, to choose the team that would develop the tool, raising fears from some that it might reflect harsher philosophies and reinforce racial biases that some argue already run rampant within the justice system.

The fact that thousands of inmates have seen their sentences commuted under the First Step Act makes it clear  that the law is having a positive impact on thousands of prisoners and their families. However, there is no way to know how much the Justice Department has influenced its outcome outside of the act itself.

Criminal rights advocates are pushing for Congress to build additional reforms on top of the FSA to continue with the momentum that this law has started. A proposal currently in the pipeline within Congress would make it easier for convicted felons to apply for federal jobs, and another would allow prisoners to apply for Pell Grants to pursue education once released.

While there is much progress to be celebrated with the FSA, advocates continue to argue that there is much more to do.  Financial reforms are a likely target of future actions, as many believe that an inmate’s inability to pay fees, fines, and cash bail often becomes an excuse to strip them of their rights. There is also discussion of how to proceed with marijuana convictions in states that recently decriminalized or legalized the substance.

Now, it seems, there is a push for justice reform that many feel is long overdue. With states across the country adopting their own legislation in addition to the First Step Act, criminal rights activists are excited to see the much-needed changes take place to improve the lives of millions of people within the current justice system.

Dayne Phillips is a criminal defense attorney with Price Benowitz LLP.

Bay tributaries see uneven progress in PCB cleanup

By Timothy B. Wheeler
Bay Journal News Service

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It’s been a slog, but efforts are making headway to rid the Anacostia River of long-banned toxic chemicals that make it unsafe to eat many locally caught fish.

After years of sampling and studies, District of Columbia officials have proposed tackling 11 hot spots of contamination in the lower Anacostia, which flows through DC before joining the Potomac River. The sediments in those places are laden with PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, a pernicious family of synthetic chemicals still making their way into fish more than four decades after being outlawed because of their risks to human health and wildlife.

“We are making real progress,” Tommy Wells, director of the district’s Department of Energy and the Environment, said at a cleanup planning meeting in June. The department’s “early action” plan, unveiled late last year, calls for a combination of dredging, capping and treatment of the PCB-tainted sediments. The projected $30 million cost is nevertheless only a down payment on dealing with the full mixture of toxic wastes, pesticides and other harmful substances fouling the river.

But officials hope that by addressing these hot spots, they can at least reduce the health risks from eating locally caught fish. After reviewing hundreds of comments on the plan, they intend to announce Sept. 30 how they’ll proceed.

“I have to temper my desire to have it all done yesterday,” said Jim Foster, president and CEO of the Anacostia Watershed Society. “But it seems as if we are finally on a trajectory to get it done.”

Elsewhere, there’s far less getting done about the PCB contamination that’s widespread throughout the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. In the Gunpowder and Bird rivers north of Baltimore, Maryland regulators have concluded there’s little they can do to reduce the PCBs that are responsible for fish consumption advisories there on channel catfish, carp, and white and yellow perch, among other species.

Anglers hoping to eat uncontaminated catch from those two linked rivers may have to wait for PCB levels to decline on their own, state officials said. But it could be a long wait for the persistent chemicals to break down naturally or become buried under cleaner sediment. In the Gunpowder, that could take 49 years, officials project; in the Bird, 93 years.

Theaux Le Gardeur, the Gunpowder Riverkeeper, finds that intolerable. “In many cases, that’s three generations of Marylanders subject to fish consumption advisories due to PCBs,” he said. Le Gardeur runs a fly-fishing shop and fishing guide service that focuses on the Gunpowder.

On July 29, the riverkeeper filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency challenging the federal agency’s approval of what Le Gardeur contends is an inadequate state study of what can be done about PCBs contaminating the rivers.

In the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, he complains that the Maryland Department of the Environment didn’t sample enough and didn’t propose to do anything about the main source of PCBs contaminating fish — the bottom sediments. EPA neglected its duty under the Clean Water Act by signing off on the state’s plan, the suit contends.

Still a widespread problem

The Anacostia and the pair of Baltimore County rivers illustrate the challenges Bay watershed communities face in dealing with problems posed by PCBs and other toxic contaminants.

While Bay watershed states, localities and federal agencies have focused on reducing water pollution from nutrients and sediment, they’ve done much less to deal with PCBs, mercury, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and toxic metals in sediment, water and fish.

According to the state-federal Chesapeake Bay Program, 82% of the Bay and tidal waters of its tributaries are considered either fully or partially impaired by toxic contaminants.

In 2014, all six watershed states, the district and the EPA pledged to make the Bay and its rivers “free of effects of toxic contaminants on living resources and human health.” They agreed specifically to go after PCBs.

Once widely used as coolants or insulators in electrical equipment and other products, PCBs were banned by the EPA in 1979 amid research linking exposure to cancer and other health effects. They break down very slowly, however, so have continued to contaminate many waterways, where they tend to collect in bottom sediments.

PCB concentrations in water and sediment have declined some since being banned. But PCBs bioaccumulate, meaning that seemingly miniscule doses build up in the fatty tissue of fish when they ingest the chemicals. The contamination is passed up the food chain as predators, including humans, consume tainted fish.

PCBs are the basis for many of the fish consumption advisories in effect throughout the Bay and its tributaries. Anglers are urged to limit or even avoid eating many locally caught fish including, in some places, the highly prized striped bass.

Over the last two decades, the Bay watershed jurisdictions, under EPA supervision, have developed pollution-reduction strategies, known as “total maximum daily loads,” for eliminating PCB contamination in dozens of tidal waterways.

The District worked with Maryland, Virginia and the EPA to develop a PCB-reduction strategy for its stretch of the Anacostia and Potomac in 2007. The plan unveiled by the district last December came after years of studies.

District officials say the measures they’re considering for dealing with hot spots in the lower Anacostia should reduce health risks from eating fish caught there by 90%. Some dredging is proposed, but in other areas the district is weighing sequestering contaminated silt under a layer of clean sediment or treating it on the river bottom.

Upal Ghosh and Kevin Sowers, a pair of researchers at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, have shown that depositing activated carbon pellets on contaminated sediment can “lock up” the PCBs and dramatically reduce what’s getting into the water. Coating the pellets with certain naturally occurring bacteria can even speed up the normally slow breakdown of the chemicals “from decades to months,” according to Sowers.

Fresh sources of PCBs

But cleaning up legacy contamination in sediment won’t be enough as long as more PCBs are getting into the river, as studies have shown, Ghosh said.

A 2019 report by the U.S. Geological Survey concluded that lower Beaverdam Creek is the dominant source of fresh PCBs to the lower Anacostia. A study that Ghosh and other researchers presented to the district earlier this year found dissolved PCB levels in the creek to be “screaming high,” as he put it — up to 20 times the levels measured in the river.

In March, Maryland regulators reported finding elevated PCBs in both sediment and water in two stretches of the creek in Prince George’s County. One is by the Landover Metrorail Station, they said.

Sherry Lin, a spokesperson for the transit agency, said Metro has cooperated with MDE investigators. Metro conducts annual inspections of all rail station outfalls and has programs in place to detect and prevent stormwater contamination, she said.

The other PCB-laden stretch of the creek is near its confluence with the Anacostia, the MDE reported. It flows there through a metal recycling facility owned by Joseph Smith & Sons. The MDE said PCB levels in creek sediment “spike rapidly” at this location, “indicating that there may be legacy contamination” on land there.

State inspectors last year sampled a retention pond at the 16-acre scrapyard and found PCBs in the water, according to information supplied by the MDE.

Dale Mullen, a lawyer representing the company, said it is voluntarily cooperating with the state and has taken steps to address the situation, including building a new concrete wall to prevent runoff or seepage to the creek. The company is also installing a new stormwater treatment system capable of removing PCBs and other contaminants. In the meantime, he noted, all stormwater outfalls from the site have been closed for now.

The next steps in the investigation, MDE officials said, include checking storm drains for PCB-tainted sediment that may be flushed out when it rains as well as other possible sources of runoff and seepage from tainted soil.

Elsewhere, there’s not been as much activity. Maryland has produced PCB-reduction strategies for 31 of its rivers. But nearly half of those, including the one for the Gunpowder and Bird rivers, don’t identify any local sources of contamination to be remediated.

State officials say that’s because water sampling and computer modeling indicates the vast majority of PCBs in those rivers come from other waterbodies — the Susquehanna River, in the case of the Gunpowder and Bird. PCBs from there are flowing into the Bay, they say, where currents and tides carry them into the tributaries.

“To see meaningful progress, you would need to change what’s flowing in from the Chesapeake,” said Lee Currey, director of MDE’s water and science administration. The agency is working on a strategy for reducing PCBs in the lower Susquehanna, including in the sediments built up behind the Conowingo Dam.

Problems on the Gunpowder

But Le Gardeur, the Gunpowder Riverkeeper, contends that the state’s PCB reduction strategy for the Gunpowder and Bird rivers doesn’t address the major source: chemicals already in the sediments, which can get back into the water to be ingested by fish.

Le Gardeur argues that the state also overlooked potential local sources of PCBs, such as Aberdeen Proving Ground, where the Army tests munitions and at one time tested chemical warfare agents. The entire base is a federal Superfund site undergoing multiple cleanups as a legacy of past releases and the burial of hazardous and explosive materials.

In developing its strategy, the MDE said a review of its records didn’t find any legacy PCB contamination in the areas of the proving ground that drain into the Gunpowder.

But a 2016 consultant’s report measured high levels of PCBs, along with other contaminants, in upper Canal Creek, which drains into the Gunpowder from the proving ground’s Edgewood area. The Army is studying the feasibility of options for remediating the PCBs in Canal Creek, according to Bethani Crouch, a base spokesperson.

MDE spokesman Jay Apperson acknowledged the PCB contamination in Canal Creek and said it “will be considered” in any future revision to the rivers’ cleanup strategy.

Le Gardeur questioned why the MDE didn’t consider dredging or treating contaminated sediments in the rivers, as was done in waters just south of the Gunpowder. From 2016 through 2018, Lockheed Martin Corp., which for decades has produced aircraft and aviation electronics on Middle River, removed PCB-laden sediment from two of its tributaries, Darkhead Cove and Cowpen Creek. The company also treated an undredged portion of the bottom with activated carbon to keep the chemicals there from getting back into the water.

The MDE has said it generally doesn’t favor dredging because it could stir up contaminated sediments and harm aquatic life. In Middle River, Currey said the agency approved dredging and treatment of the bottom because it was a relatively small area with documented high levels of the chemicals.

Brady Locher, deputy director of Baltimore County’s Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability, said the county “has worked diligently” to address PCB contamination, which impairs Back River and Baltimore Harbor in addition to the Gunpowder and Bird.

The county partnered with state regulators and the UMBC researchers to assess PCB levels in fish tissue, aquatic insects, sediment and water in Back River. County officials are now looking to contract with an external laboratory capable of analyzing contaminant concentrations.

“Because PCB remediation is so expensive, it is crucial that we base our actions on reliable and comprehensive monitoring results,” Locher said.

The county is preparing to dredge more than 50 acres of the Bird River — but to improve boater access, not remove PCBs. The MDE is reviewing the county’s plan. Apperson said a study of dredging in Baltimore Harbor, where contamination is worse, indicated the activity would have only “limited impact” on fish tissue levels.

Meanwhile, the county should soon have more resources for combating PCBs. Officials expect to get more than $7.5 million from a federal class-action lawsuit against Monsanto Corp., which at one time made PCBs. The company agreed to pay a total of $550 million to settle water contamination claims by nearly 2,000 towns, cities, counties and port districts. The District of Columbia is slated to get $52 million from that settlement to put toward cleaning up the Anacostia and Potomac rivers.

Le Gardeur said he didn’t want to file a lawsuit, but felt he had little choice given the lack of action proposed for the Gunpowder and Bird rivers. He owns a fly-fishing shop and runs a fishing guide service that caters to anglers fishing the Gunpowder, he noted in the legal complaint, so the contamination directly affects his livelihood. Similar lawsuits alleging inadequate cleanup plans have on occasion led to revisions that strengthened them.

A spokesperson for EPA’s mid-Atlantic regional office said the agency and the Justice Department are currently reviewing the riverkeeper’s lawsuit.

The tidal Gunpowder and Bird are used by boaters and swimmers, the riverkeeper noted. They’re also popular for fishing and crabbing.

Bill Temmink, a local angler, said he doesn’t eat what he catches in the Gunpowder, but he knows of “a bunch of people who are out here three and four times a week and keep the fish.”

Of the projected date when the MDE said the river’s fish should be free of PCB contamination, Temmink said, “50 years is a long time.”

Tim Wheeler is the Bay Journal’s associate editor and senior writer, based in Maryland. You can reach him at 410-409-3469 or twheeler@bayjournal.com. This article was originally published in the Bay Journal and was distributed by the Bay Journal News Service.

How repo rates affect your home loan EMIs

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A home loan EMI comprises of two parts – principal and interest. The principal amount of an EMI remains constant, but the interest is variable. Ever wonder why a change in the external benchmark say RBI repo rate reflects in the interest outgo and subsequently, in the home loan EMI payments? Read on to find out the answer.

How Are Home Loan Interest Rates Decided?

In 2019, RBI mandated lenders to link their floating home loan interest rates to an external benchmark rate instead of Marginal Cost-Based Lending Rate (MCLR). There are three types of external benchmark rates –

  • Policy repo rate of RBI
  • Certificate of deposit rate
  • Treasury bill rate

Under the MCLR regime – that preceded the external benchmark regime – lenders followed internal benchmark rate to lend a home loan in India. As a result, the benefits of the policy rate cuts by RBI did not reach the end-users on time.

However, under the external benchmark regime, key interest rate cuts by RBI are transmitted to the end-users immediately. Lenders can charge any spread (margin and premium risk based on the applicant’s credit profile) over and above the external benchmark rate.

Therefore, if your lender has adopted the repo rate as the external benchmark for a home loan online or offline, any change in RBI’s repo rate will reflect in your home loan EMIs.

What Is Repo Rate?

A repo rate is a rate at which lenders borrow money from RBI (the central bank of India) in case of a shortage of funds. It is a monetary policy that is used to control Inflation, money supply, and liquidity in the Indian economy.

The lending interest rate, which is linked to RBI’s repo rate, is known as Repo Rate Linked Lending Rate (RLLR). For an RLLR-linked home loan, the interest is calculated like this:

  • RLLR = repo rate + margin charged by the lender + risk premium, wherein the margin is the same for all the borrowers, but the risk premium varies.

Therefore, any variation in repo rates will reflect in your home loan EMI payments.

How Repo Rate Affects Your Home loan EMIs?

Any change in the policy repo rate affects both existing and new borrowers. For a home loan linked to RLLR, a repo rate cut by RBI translates into a decrease in interest outgo, so your home loan EMI amount decreases. However, a hike in the repo rate means an increase in the interest outgo leading to an increase in your home loan EMI amount.

Nonetheless, the effective home loan interest rates linked to RLLR depend on various other factors like –

  • The home loan amount
  • Loan-to-value ratio
  • Borrower’s lending risk
  • Credit score, etc.

As per RBI, lenders are mandated to revise the RLLR-linked interest rates at least once in every three months; any change in the repo rate will be passed to the borrowers within three months. Moreover, if your credit score improves substantially over the tenure, you can approach the lender to revise the risk premium charged on your home loan and bring down your EMIs.

The Bottom Line

The interest outgo on your home loan repayment determines the overall cost of borrowing. Therefore, use a home loan EMI calculator to estimate the EMI amount before you apply for home loan.

Why you should choose internet fax for your business 

business

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Within the business world, communication and sharing information has long shifted from old-fashioned print-and-send methods of the past. The internet is now where emails and social media rule. However, some old brick and mortar industries are still reliant on the old methods of B2B or B2C communication – or, faxes.

Despite being described as an outdated technology, faxing documents remains an important part of the day-to-day running of many organizations such as law firms, financial institutions, and various governments. The problem is fax machines are traditionally very large, cumbersome and expensive pieces of equipment.

Luckly, modern technology now allows for faxing over the internet. Here is a summary of what internet faxing is, why it’s a great choice for your business, and how you can select the best provider for internet fax services.

What is internet fax?

Alternatively known as e-fax or online fax, internet fax is a way of sending fax messages using the internet and internet protocols. This beats the old methods of using a fax machine and a standard telephone connection.

What are the advantages of using the internet fax?

In general, internet fax boosts and improves productivity within your business, while saving you time and money. Here’s how:

Internet fax makes it easier to organize faxes

With internet fax, organizing faxes is easier and more efficient. This is because all your documents arrive in secure cloud storage. With just a few clicks, you can organize the sent, received, and unread faxes, make notes for each and quickly find faxes you need by using the online search tool provided.

This system removes the need to tediously organize piles of papers associated with traditional faxes and fax machines.

It’s easier to send a single fax to multiple clients

Fax machines were traditionally time-consuming when it was necessary to send a single fax to multiple recipients. For each fax, a new fax cover sheet was necessary, and the tedious task of sending and waiting was time-consuming. With internet fax, sending to multiple recipients is as simple as clicking a button. This saves your administration staff time that can be used to handle other business duties.

Electronic signing

Electronic signing not only saves you time and paper, since you do not need to physically sign each piece of paper you need to fax, it also adds an electronic layer of security to your faxes. This, in turn, improves productivity and security.

Green office

Fax machines can be noisy and distracting. However, with internet faxing, you can opt for a silent and fast process, that is virtually paperless, too.

What should you look for in the best service provider?

There are several things to consider when choosing a great online fax provider:

Estimate how much you use per month

Try to determine how much faxing your office does per month, before choosing a service provider or plan. Most providers offer different plans based mostly on fax volume. With some vendors, you can get a few pages free before they start charging per extra page.

Additional features and benefits

Along with basic online faxing services, some providers offer online cloud storage for your documents as well. This can save paper and time in the long run, as you will not need to print the pages or confirmations you receive or send out.

The provider should also offer a powerful search engine to make it easier for you to search for faxes quickly when you need them. The addition of real-time statistics can also be helpful when tracking or looking for specific pages.

Find out the supported countries

Online faxes may not be sent to locations or countries where the receiving or sending of fax is not supported. So, ensure that the provider can offer you a local fax number. Then, for the other countries where you might need a fax number, ensure that the provider can also secure number for those areas.

Wrapping up

Faxing is still a fundamental tool in many businesses for their employees and clients. Internet fax provides a safe, convenient and cost-effective way to take advantage of this older technology in a new, innovative way.

Frank Olsen, CEO of Inchcape, discusses COVID-19 impact

covid-19 economy

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Inchcape Shipping Services is one of the world’s leading providers of port agency services. It has 240 offices with over 3,000 professional staff and contractors. It covers around 2500 ports worldwide, which is about 85% of total ports in the world.  The role of a shipping agent is to act as the representative of the ship operators, owners, and charters at the port. Services offered by Inchcape include survey and inspection, financial management, cargo, dry docking, crew logistics, and bunker calls. The shipping agent is also responsible to handle all paperwork related to immigration, customs, and other documentation required by port authorities to make sure there are no disruptions to the operations of the shipping vessel. Frank Olsen is the CEO of Inchcape Shipping Services. He shared his views on the impact of COVID-19 on the shipping agency.

Frank Olsen is used to a lot of international travel for work. The restrictions caused by COVID-19 have forced him to spend most of his time in Norway. Frank is glad that Inchcape had already established a strong IT infrastructure that has allowed the employees to work remotely without too much disruption in work.  However, Frank believes the challenges posed by COVID-19 are real. The months of April and May showed an impact of about 20% reduction but things have been recovering since then. With the lockdown restrictions in certain segments, one of the major hurdles has been the crew logistics. Frank is proud of his team who has been able to handle this unprecedented situation.

The analysts at Inchcape predict a reduction of 5-7% in seaborne trade due to COVID-19. Frank pointed out the 80% of the shipping agents are small local ports, which have been more severely impacted than some of the larger multinational players in the industry. Inchcape has about a 5% share of the worldwide shipping agency. There is a lot of room for growth and Frank believes Inchcape has the potential to double this market share in the next five years. One of the potential areas of growth is through organic growth. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need of using a global specialist as a shipping agent. The stability and security offered by global shipping agents are comforting factors for ship owners, charters, and operators.

Another advantage of working with Inchcape is that you get standardized services on all ports, regardless of location. At Inchcape, there is a strong emphasis on corporate compliance, standards, and regulations. There is a perceived advantage of local shipping agents that they might have specialized local knowledge, however, Frank points out that Inchcape is a global player but it also has a very strong network of local agents that offer live and comprehensive coverage of the ports in the region. Inchcape launched World of Ports (WoP) to facilitate its clients with detailed digital information such as vessel location, port data, operational notes, and more.  Clients don’t have to call several different ports to facilitate the operations of their vessel from one port to the other, Inchcape manages all of that as a single stakeholder.

Author Sam Brush is an expert in ports and terminals, shipping, marine and logistics.

Cline, Phillips introduce bipartisan bill to promote efficient technology use by federal agencies

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Congressmen Ben Cline (VA-06) and Dean Phillips (MN-03) introduced H.R. 7949 – the SMART Government Act.

This legislation would implement a three-pronged approach to establish better governance and oversight regarding Federal technology practices.

H.R. 7949 would:

  1. Work to consolidate the more than 12,000 government data centers, which would not only save federal dollars but would promote transparency within these facilities.
  2. Require Federal agencies to properly track and report their software assets to eliminate unnecessary redundancies in purchasing.
  3. Mandate that documents transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration are done so electronically to ensure the government is better equipped to access its data and respond to individual requests in a timely manner.

“The federal government invests more than $90 billion annually in information technology yet lacks the necessary oversight measures to protect against waste,” Cline said. “The SMART Government Act is a first step in working to promote a system of technological use that is more accountable to and efficient for the U.S. tax-payer.”

“We didn’t leave the Stone Age because we ran out of rocks – we found a better way of doing things,” Phillips said. “Congress is an 18th century institution operating in a 21st century world. In order to meet the needs of the American people, and save the taxpayer money, we have to update and innovate. The SMART Government Act will modernize our government and put us on the path towards being more efficient and responsive to our constituent’s needs.”

This legislation is the first in a series of bipartisan government reform bills that Congressmen Cline and Phillips intend to introduce together over the next several weeks.

Luria pushes access to non-opioid pain medication to combat addiction crisis

Elaine LuriaCongresswoman Elaine Luria (D-VA) has announced her support of the Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation (NOPAIN) Act (H.R. 5172), which would address the devastating opioid epidemic by enabling patients and providers to utilize non-opioid pain management therapies and provide separate Medicare reimbursements for these alternative treatments.

“In 2018, an average of three Virginians died of an opioid overdose daily, which is why I support the NOPAIN Act to encourage providers to prescribe non-opioid treatment to limit the possibility of addiction,” said  Luria. “By giving doctors and patients an alternate pain medication option with separate Medicare reimbursements, we could stop countless Americans from getting addicted for opioids.”

Under current law, hospitals receive the same payment from Medicare regardless of whether a physician prescribes an opioid or a non-opioid. As a result, hospitals rely on opioids, which are typically dispensed by a pharmacy after discharge at little or no cost to the hospital. The NOPAIN Act would incentivize providers and patients to use non-opioid therapies.

Luria has cosponsored numerous bills to help combat the opioid epidemic. The Lessening Addiction By Enhancing Labeling Opioids Act would require opioids prescribed to patients to have a warning label outlining the possible effects of opioid abuse.

The Fentanyl Sanctions Act address the critical issue of illegal opioid trafficking and would impose sanctions on foreign entities participating in illegal opioid movement.

Luria cosponsored the State Opioid Response Grant Authorization Act which reauthorized the State Opioid Response Grants program to provide $1 billion per year to combat the opioid crisis in states across the country.

Virginia Tech wins Excellence in Faculty Community Engagement Award

By Michelle Soledad

virginia techVirginia Tech is the recipient of the 2020 Excellence in Faculty Community Engagement Award, given by the Engagement Scholarship Consortium. The award recognizes a higher education institution’s exemplary contributions to engaged scholarship.

Virginia Tech was selected based on efforts to build community capacity for integrating engineering in rural middle school science classrooms, following a nationwide selection process.

The project is facilitated by Virginia Tech Partnering with Educators and Engineers in Rural Schools, or VT PEERS. VT PEERS is an applied research program that facilitates partnerships among middle school teachers, local industry partners, and researchers from the College of Engineering Department of Engineering Education to design, run, and study hands-on activities in middle school science classrooms in rural Appalachia.

VT PEERS is currently going into its fourth year, supported by funding from the National Science Foundation. Since 2017, VT PEERS has engaged more than 1,800 students in seven schools in Smyth, Bedford, and Giles counties. Jacob Grohs, associate professor in the Department of Engineering Education, serves as principal investigator for the project.

VT PEERS served as a catalyst for “Engineering Pathways for Appalachian Youth,” a five-year project that will leverage experiences from VT PEERS to bring innovative engineering learning experiences to more than 2,500 students from counties in Appalachia. Grohs recently received the prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program award, which will support this endeavor.

“Our team believes that engaging with regional partners around critical issues in our communities is a vital part of being faculty at a global land-grant university,” said Grohs on behalf of the VT PEERS team. “This recognition is a strong endorsement for the importance of universities and communities building authentic relationships and committing to collaborate together long-term. We are honored and energized and look forward to continuing these efforts to collectively invest in the futures of youth in our communities through partnerships with schools and teachers.”

Virginia Tech, represented by Grohs, will be participating in a panel discussion to talk about the project during the Annual Engagement Scholarship Consortium Conference, which will be held virtually on Oct. 15. The panel will include other 2020 Excellence Award recipients. The Engagement Scholarship Consortium is “an organization composed of higher education institutions that work collaboratively to build strong university-community partnerships anchored in the rigor of scholarship,” as stated on its website.

Department of Homeland Security changes immigration law

By Mario Godoy

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For years, immigrants coming into the United States looking for legal status or citizenship have been required to show that they are mostly self-sufficient and will not rely on public services. The rationale behind this being that willing immigrants into the United States should be able to support themselves, with certain stipulations laid out in a person’s application.

Now, the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, has redefined some of the key terms for immigrants applying for legal status. In their most recent updates to immigration policy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, and the DHS have worked together to redefine what a public charge is and what kinds of services should be considered when looking at a person’s likelihood of relying upon government programs.

For those against the new ruling, this has made it even more difficult for immigrants currently living in the United States and for those looking to apply for legal status, whether in the form of a green card or a visa.

Under the law, immigrants are responsible for ensuring and proving that they can support themselves and their families once permitted into the country. If they cannot do so independently, they must prove that they will receive help from family members, sponsors, or private organizations, rather than relying on public benefits. As of October 15, 2019, however, the definitions of public charge and public benefits changed and became much stricter. The law later became instated in late February of this year.

A public charge now refers to any individual that receives one or more public benefits for over 12 months in any 36-month period. Under this updated ground of inadmissibility, anyone who utilizes certain public housing programs, certain forms of Medicaid, and cash assistance programs may have their legal status denied. This rule also applies to immigrants already allowed in the country who are looking to update or reapply for legal status.

Under the new definition, if an immigrant receives two benefits in one month, it will count as two months. The term ‘public benefit’ now means any cash benefits to help with income maintenance. There are certain exceptions under the new law, such as humanitarian immigrants like refugees, but in the case for many immigrants, it will make life much more challenging.

Why the current administration is revising these definitions now is difficult to understand. While the public charge rule has always been a ground of inadmissibility, it became much more restrictive with the most recent revisions by USCIS and the DHS. For those against the new ruling, it appears that the updates were a way for the Trump administration to continue their crack down on immigration into the United States, both in its illegal and legal forms.

The law also allows USCIS discretionary authority when dealing with individuals that are found in violation of the law. The government agency has the discretion to allow immigrants in violation of the new law to post a public charge bond. That bond amount is set at $8,100. Critics of this law state that if an immigrant has already been deemed a public charge, they simply do not have the money to post that kind of bail.

Previously, USCIS has held public outreach programs trying to help anyone that was affected by the implementation of the new rule. That is little solace to some immigrants, who are now worried about their immigration status for using government programs or benefits when previously this type of aid was accessible to them.

Now, immigrants must navigate between which benefits they are permitted to access and which benefits or programs could jeopardize their legal status due to significant changes in the public charge rule, a task that is proving to be daunting to many across the country.

Mario Godoy is an immigration attorney with Godoy Law Office.

Virginia Football adds a pair of JMU grad transfers for 2020

uva footballVirginia Football announced Sunday the addition of two grad transfers, defensive back D’Angelo Amos and defensive lineman Adeeb Atariwa, both recently of JMU.

Amos and Atariwa have each signed grant-in-aid documents and will enroll at UVA this summer and will each have one year of eligibility.

Amos (Richmond, Va.) appeared in 44 career games for Dukes and leaves JMU No. 2 all-time with 1,259 career punt return yards. He returned five punts for touchdowns, including three in 2018. The defensive back was an American Football Coaches Association first-team All-American in 2019, as well as a first-team All-CAA safety and punt returner. He made 57 tackles, two interceptions, broke up five passes and blocked three kicks in 2019.

Amos also returned 33 punts for 426 yards and one touchdown. For his career, Amos made 135 career tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, two interceptions, 11 pass breakups, four blocked kicks, three fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.

Amos is a 2015 graduate of Meadowbrook High School where he as an All-Central Region utility player as a senior in 2015. He earned three varsity football letters and was a tri-sport athlete that ran track and played basketball. Amos was all-state in the 4×100 relay and was an all-region long jumper. Prior to enrolling at JMU, he played one season at West Point Prep, making four interceptions during 2015 season.

Atariwa (Sterling, Va.) appeared in 39 career games for James Madison with 23 career starts. The defensive lineman made 52 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble, a pass breakup and one blocked kick in 2019. Atariwa recorded 87 career tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks while working primarily in the middle of the line.

Atariwa is a 2016 graduate of Dominion High School where he earned VHSL 4A second-team all-state honors. He was a 4A West first-team all-region selection as a junior and senior and the Conference 21 Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.

Atariwa was a dual-sport athlete who also wrestled, winning the 2015 4A state championship at the 285 pound weight class.

Information from Virginia Athletics

Staunton provides details on flood cleanup efforts

stauntonThe City of Staunton continues to actively respond to the flooding resulting from severe rainfall last night.  Please follow the City’s social media platforms –  www.facebook.com/CityofStaunton and twitter.com/StauntonCityVA – for the most up to date information.

How to Report Damage:

  • Fire/rescue and building officials are conducting a comprehensive damage assessment across the city for safety purposes and to collect data for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management in order to develop a request for financial assistance.
  • Individuals and businesses may report damage by telephone at 540.332.3960. If you call, please be prepared to leave a voicemail message due to the expected high volume of calls.City staff will respond to your report as quickly as possible.Reports should include name, address and telephone number.   

Status of Street/Sidewalk Clean up:

  • All streets in Staunton are open to vehicular traffic, but some sidewalks remain closed due to damage.Crews continue to work as quickly as possible to respond to widespread cleanup needs.
  • The city will assist with removal of mud in the downtown service district but no sooner than Monday.  Available resources are otherwise committed today to recovery efforts.

Trash Disposal/Pick up:

  • Beginning today at 3 pm curbside trash collection will be provided along Lewis, Central and Augusta streets between Churchville Avenue and Johnson Street; along Beverley Street between Lewis and Market streets; and on Byers Street.Debris should be placed curbside for collection.
  • In the days ahead, the city may consider further collections in addition to the regular schedule.
  • Public use site at Augusta Regional Landfill, normally closed on Sundays, will be open for disposal of flood debris beginning at 1:00 p.m. today. The facility will remain open until 5:00 p.m.

Removal of Damaged/Abandoned Vehicles:

  • Vehicle owners are strongly encouraged to remove vehicles that are blocking streets or sidewalks or other public areas as quickly as possible to facilitate flood cleanup and recovery efforts.Owners are responsible for making arrangements to have inoperable vehicles towed if necessary.
  • The city plans to announce a deadline for voluntary vehicle removal, after which the city will make arrangements to remove vehicles.

General Public Safety Information:

  • Individuals are strongly discouraged from visiting downtown this afternoon and this evening to reduce traffic congestion and interference with cleanup and recovery efforts.
  • Drivers and pedestrians are encouraged to be observant and aware of areas that may still be impacted by debris or high water and to exercise caution when traveling through those areas and areas where crews are working.
  • City officials encourage individuals to continue to observe public health guidelines regarding face coverings and physical distancing as flood cleanup and recovery efforts continue.
  • There are no water quality issues related to the flooding, and no known water outages at this time.

USDA seeking partners for collaborative conservation projects

usdaWhen it comes to environmental stewardship, most are willing to jump on board, but few get to drive the train. Funds are scarce and existing rules and regulations don’t usually offer much of a change in scenery. That all changed about six years ago with a little program that allowed communities and conservation groups to sit in the engineer’s seat to design targeted solutions that work best for their areas.

First authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) has added new “stations” across the country to improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has helped clear the tracks along the way, working hand-in-hand with more than 2,000 partners to implement 336 active RCPP projects.

NRCS is now inviting more potential conservation partners to join us on this cross-country journey by submitting new RCPP project applications. Funding is open to a wide variety of entities to include private industry, non-government organizations, Indian tribes, state and local governments, water districts and universities. A full list of eligible entities is available in the Application for Program Funding on grants.gov.

RCPP has already leveraged nearly $1 billion in NRCS investments with close to $2 billion in partner dollars to achieve common goals. In this latest offering, the agency will award up to $360 million for locally driven, public-private partnerships. Entities may request between $250,000 and $10 million in RCPP funding through this announcement and are expected to offer value-added contributions to amplify impacts in an amount equal or greater to the NRCS investment.

RCPP has two funding pools – Critical Conservation Areas and State/ Multistate. Virginia partners will experience no impacts from a recent change in RCPP Critical Conservation Areas, which combined two existing CCAs (California Bay-Delta and Columbia River Basin) and added a new one (Northeast Forests and Waters). These changes were instituted to address public comments in a recent review of these target areas and their associated priority resource concerns.

“This partner-driven approach to conservation has already made a big impact in the Commonwealth with 11 existing projects benefitting Virginia agricultural producers and forest landowners,” said Acting State Conservationist Jon Hubbert. “We look forward to even more opportunities to collaborate under the new RCPP, which is more efficient and effective with greater flexibility for NRCS and partners to manage project funding.”

Proposals must be submitted through the RCPP portal by Nov. 4,. Interested entities can learn more about this offering by participating in a webinar for RCPP applicants scheduled for 3 p.m. Eastern Time on Aug. 27.

Contact Stacey Bradshaw, Virginia RCPP Program Manager, at 804-287-1673 or Stacey.bradshaw@usda.gov or visit the RCPP website for more details.

How global warming is affecting our everyday life

earth new

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In today’s everyday life, the term ‘global warming’ is used all over social media and the news aggressively.

In fact, we hear about it so much that it’s causing panic and stress in some people and questions about the actual philosophy behind these two words.

And naturally, the opinions of society are divided; some people don’t think that it’s real, while others organize whole campaigns and groups in order to make a change in this aspect.

According to the second group, even a small change matters more than doing nothing at all. And it’s true when you think about it.

But, how much does it actually affect the human population, as well as the wildlife outside of the comfort of our homes? Is it really that serious?

The Way It Impacts Human Health and Wellbeing

Since the name of the problem pretty much speaks for itself, it’s important to understand the concept of it.

Global warming is a way of destroying the balance in the environment, and of course, it affects the health of many species, human included.

One of the most important side effects of this global problem is before anything else, it’s affecting the air that we breathe.

Global warming dries the air and obviously, nature is drier than it should be so it makes it more prone to fires and them spreading across the surroundings. And when this happens, it’s normal for the air to be polluted and toxic for the lungs of the living species around it.

The weather is also hotter and there is less humidity, especially in the parts of the world where summer is the leading season of the year.

Just like global warming, lack of internet privacy affects our life on a daily basis, if you want to learn how to stay protected and stop your information from becoming compromised, make sure to check out vpnpros.com.

Humans as species need humid air in order for the lungs to work properly; dry oxygen just doesn’t do the job well. It also affects agriculture, and this is and for both the farmers and the people in general because when this aspect is out of balance, it means that the food industry is also affected in a negative way that doesn’t benefit anyone.

How Is Environment Handling This Change?

As well as the humans, the environment as well as some pretty noticeable side effects that aren’t doing any good with it.

You may or may not have heard about enormous blocks of ice melting in a matter of weeks, or even days, and the animals that are dependent on those cold, low temperatures are fighting for survival.

They even use cannibalism and brutality between each other in order to survive the day without starving to death.

Also, the ice melting can cause floods and imbalance between the amount of water versus land that can become life-threatening to everyone in a short period of time. The pants and the animals are also facing some pretty serious issues such as:

  • Imbalanced weather conditions;
  • An excessive amount of water;
  • Not enough humidity in the air etc.

It may not seem like a big problem now but everything in nature is linked. If one of the few important links of the chain falls out of place, the whole situation can break apart.

How to get compensation from pain and suffering cases

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The alarming rise of coronavirus has disturbed the life of all the citizens of the States. To bring some solace into people’s life, many esteemed personalities of the country have made public statements for getting attention on topics that revolve around the helping of the average households. “We are facing an uncertain future. We do not know how long it will take to eradicate coronavirus and return to normal. People and businesses who lost their income during the pandemic need help to survive. Now more than ever, politicians must work together to create a corona aid relief bill to ease the financial suffering of their people,” says Brad Nakase, who is one of the best personal lawyers in California and awarded the prestigious “American Institute of Trial Lawyer’s 2020 Litigator of the Year.”

With the help of the best personal injury lawyer, an injured person can even get compensation for the pain and suffering that they go through due to an accident. It is a known fact that a person who encounters a rough accident or gets injured due to a trip goes through a lot of pain and suffering. The thing which differs in these cases is the amount of pain and suffering the injured person goes through, as each person experiences a different amount of pain and suffering. In the majority of the states, the figure for compensation to be given to the injured person is decided by the jury.

In survivor’s cases, more often than not, the court doesn’t give any consideration to the pain and suffering they went through due to the accident. This is where a personal injury lawyer comes in. With the help of a well-experienced lawyer, an injured person can get compensation for even for the pain and suffering that they went through during their accident. The terms and laws surrounding pain and suffering cases are very complex and complicated; that is why only a lawyer that is well-versed in such laws and has proper experience can be trusted with these cases.

Giving pain and suffering an actual number

It is the lawyer’s duty to persuade the jury to award the injured person with compensation for their pain and suffering. They can do this by showing medical history and testimonies.

Medical history

The lawyers present the court with a medical history of their clients. The history should include the various medical treatments and the psychological therapy the injured people needed due to pain and suffering.

Testimonies

In these cases, the lawyers also persuade the jury through the use of testimonies. First, the testimonies of medical experts should be presented who provide the jury with information about the injury, treatments, and the other medical requirements of the injured people. Secondly, the testimonies from close friends and family should be presented. They should cover how the injured people dealt with their pain and how the injury has affected their various relationships. Lastly, a personal testimony of the injured people that includes all of the details about the pain and suffering, which they went through should be brought up.

The California based law firm Nakase is the best place to go when an injured person wants to file a case about their post-accident pain and suffering. The law firm provides an accurate analysis of the injured person’s situation to them and also helps them in drawing out the figure for their rightful compensation. The firm guarantees fruitful outcomes due to their well over 60 years of experience in these specific cases. If the best services are desired, then the Nakase law firm should be the only consideration.

Augusta Regional Landfill open Sunday to take flood debris

The public use site at Augusta Regional Landfill, normally closed on Sundays, will be open for disposal of flood debris beginning at 1 p.m. today.

The facility will remain open until 5 p.m.

Can pediatric dental care prevent the need for braces?

dentist

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In the US, getting braces is often considered a rite of passage. That’s hardly surprising, given that orthodontists estimate 45% of children could benefit from braces due to bite problems, and as many as 75% could gain some benefits from wearing braces to straighten their teeth and improve face shape. Those are some big numbers, but there are some who think these interventions might be avoidable. By ensuring children get comprehensive dental care from an early age, these experts contend that many could avoid needing braces down the line.

Early Intervention

Pediatric dentistry is a comprehensive field, encompassing everything from treating cavities and preventing gingivitis to talking to children and their family about developing good oral health habits. Most also recommend that children see a dentist for the first time by their first birthday, although very few families meet this goal. Rather, many children first see the dentist around the time they start school or because parents are concerned about habits like thumb sucking and pacifier use that could potentially cause crooked teeth or issues with mouth shape.

Orthodontic Options

When parents bring children to the dentist with concerns about bite or tooth alignment, the dentist may refer them to the orthodontist. Orthodontists are specialists concerned with innovative and even artistic oral health treatment. They know that carefully examining a child’s skull shape early on can help them predict what’s ahead for that child, in terms of overall oral health. And they know that, while braces may be their bread and butter, performing earlier interventions, such as placing a palate expander for a child with a narrow mouth, may help them avoid braces later on.

Early intervention has become even more important for children than they were a few decades ago because of an interesting development: our skulls are evolving to have narrower mouths which can lead to airway obstruction, as well as crimped nasal passages and bite problems. An overly narrow mouth not only risks airway issues (and can cause sleep apnea in young, otherwise healthy children), but also crooked teeth because there isn’t enough room for the full adult set in the shrinking space. This evolution is also one of the reasons that impacted wisdom teeth are so common – otherwise, they would have represented a much more serious problem in centuries past.

Small Adjustments

Palate expanders and other early orthodontic treatments can help address serious structural issues, but there are also smaller, simpler steps that parents and dentists can take to prevent the need for braces later on. For example, many children suffer from cavities due to poor oral hygiene and diets full of processed, sugary foods. Left untreated, cavities can turn into serious damage that necessitates extraction – and in young children, extractions require careful management. Their teeth can shift and become misaligned while they wait for their adult teeth to come in, leading to the need for braces later on.

Ensuring that children receive proper dental care, including having their teeth cleaned and getting cavities filled promptly, can give children an advantage in terms of mouth and jaw structure later on. They may be able to treat minor misalignments with less invasive methods and make appropriate referrals based on the child’s age and the complexity of their problems.

Some children will inevitably need braces. Their families may have a long history of poor tooth alignment or other oral health problems. For others, though, braces might really be optional – but if skulls keep changing the way they have in recent years, that might not be the case in a few decades. It’s certainly an issue to watch.

Augusta County General District Court closed Monday

Augusta CountyDue to the heavy rain fall and flooding in the Downtown Staunton area, the Augusta County General District Court building will be closed on Monday.

All cases in General District and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court will be rescheduled.

The building is tentatively scheduled to reopen on Tuesday, additional details will be provided on Monday.

If you have any questions please call the General District Court at  540-245-5300 or the JDR Court at 540-245-5306.

The Augusta County Circuit Court will operate as normal.

Brogdon drops 24 in Pacers’ win over Lebron, Lakers

basketball

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Malcolm Brogdon had 24 points and six assists to continue his run of productivity in the bubble to help lead Indiana to a 116-111 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

Brogdon, a 2016 UVA alum, was 8-of-13 from the floor, including shooting 4-of-6 from three-point range, three of those coming in the fourth quarter.

Brogdon had 13 of his 24 points in the fourth, a give-and-take affair that the Pacers were able to solidify in the final seconds with a pair of Victor Oladipo free throws and a Brogdon steal.

Brogdon is averaging 20.3 points, 6.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game since the NBA’s return on July 31, shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range.

The Pacers are 4-1 in the bubble, and are currently tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference with Miami, both a half-game ahead of sixth-place Philadelphia, with three games left in the 2019-2020 regular season – against Miami on Monday, Houston on Wednesday, and a return date with Miami to close out the season on Friday.

Story by Chris Graham

Stable Craft Brewing opens new cornhole golf course

cornhole

Photo courtesy Stable Craft Brewing.

Central Virginia’s Stable Craft Brewing at Hermitage Hill is taking a new approach to cornhole.

The Augusta County-based brewery is rolling out a new 9-hole cornhole golf course.  The new course is spread out on Stable Craft’s 20-acre farm and features spectacular views of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains.

The brewery offers Golf and Drink packages that include a round of golf combined with a variety of offerings of Stable Craft’s beers and ciders.

“As a farm brewery with acres of open farmland, we saw an opportunity to provide our guests with a safe and fun experience that would also comply with social distancing guidelines,” Stable Craft owner Craig Nargi said. “We’re going to continue to enhance the course, but so far, the response from our customers has been positive.”

Stable Craft Brewing at Hermitage Hill offers the following Golf and Drink packages:

  • Birdie Brews – Round of golf and beer tickets for Stable Craft’s arsenal of easy-drinking beers including Britchin Brown, Appalachian Divide, Blueberry Blonde, and their Pilsner all fall into this category.
  • Eagle Stouts – Round of golf and beer tickets for Stable Craft’s Sour Ales, Ciders, IPA’s and stouts.
  • Shooting Pars – Round of golf and beer tickets for 608 lager, their lightest, easy drinking beer and perfect for the hot weather.

Guests can also purchase an individual round of golf.

For safety purposes, all golfers must bring their own cornhole bags.

Stable Craft Brewings’s rural location offers acres of open farmland with multiple covered and uncovered outdoor locations to keep guests physically distant while enjoying craft beer, cider, wine and food.  Several other safety measures have been implemented to provide guests with a safe and fun experience while complying with public health guidelines.

For hours of operation and directions, visit www.stablecraftbrewing.com or follow on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/stablecraftbrewing/.  For more information, call 540-490-2609.

 

Can waterfalls make me happy?

Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that being around a waterfall makes you feel good? – S.B., Lewiston, ME

earth new

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The notion of waterfalls making you happy is often viewed as an “old wives’ tale,” but there may be some truth to it given the so-called “negative ions” pervasive in such environments. The collision of water molecules with each other causes water to be positively charged and surrounding air to be negatively charged. According to Pierce Howard, Ph.D., author of The Owner’s Manual for the Brain: Everyday Applications from Mind-Brain Research, it makes sense that waterfalls can make you feel good, given that negative ions hitting our bloodstream can produce biochemical reactions linked to alleviating depression, relieving stress and boosting energy.

“High concentrations of negative ions are essential for high energy and positive mood,” he reports. “Negative ions suppress serotonin levels in much the same way that natural sunlight suppresses melatonin. Hence the invigorating effect of fresh air and sunshine and the correspondingly depressed feelings associated with being closed in and dark.”

“The atmosphere we breathe normally is full of positive and negative ions,” he adds. “Air-conditioning, lack of ventilation, and long dry spells remove negative ions…the best ratios of negative to positive ions are associated with waterfalls and the time before, during and after storms,” says Howard. “The worst are found in windowless rooms and closed, moving vehicles.”

Our love of waterfalls only underscores that people thrive when they are exposed to nature on a regular basis. A 2013 study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology definitively linked exposure to nature directly with improved mental health, comparing the mental health of those who moved from city landscapes to greener, more natural settings with those who relocated in the reverse direction. Researchers found that those who relocated to settings with a higher exposure to nature were noticeably happier during the three-year study period. “[E]nvironmental policies to increase urban green space may have sustainable public health benefits,” they concluded.

In another recent study, researchers sampled the effects of nature on 537 University of Rochester students in both real and imagined situations, and found that individuals who spent time outdoors—or even just imagined themselves in nature—consistently experienced higher energy levels and increased feelings of happiness. Study participants who spent just 20 minutes outdoors a day experienced significant increases in energy levels as well as noticeable mood boosts. Even indoor plants played a role in helping study participants feel more energized.

Another way to look at it would be to consider our sedentary, indoor lifestyle as a drain on our energy reserves and taxing to our mood and general sense of well-being. In the landmark 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv coined the term “nature deficit disorder” to explain how our lack of time outdoors has led to behavioral problems in kids and adults alike. Louv’s prescription? Spend more time outdoors (away from screens) interacting with nature and each other.

In case you needed another reason to get off the couch and out into the woods on a waterfall hike, now you have it. You’ll be sharper. You’ll be more productive. You’ll be invigorated. And you’ll be happier.

CONTACTS: The Owner’s Manual for the Brain, amzn.to/3gAlLTm; Last Child in the Woods, amzn.to/3kcRb4b; “Green spaces deliver lasting mental health benefits,” medicalxpress.com/news/2014-01-green-spaces-mental-health-benefits.html.

EarthTalk® is produced by Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss for the 501(c)3 nonprofit EarthTalk. See more at https://emagazine.com. To donate, visit https://earthtalk.org. Send questions to: question@earthtalk.org.

How to help someone with OCD

depression

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OCD is an anxiety disorder that causes repetitive thoughts or sensations (obsessions), which lead the patients to do something repeatedly (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily functioning, leading to distress if the compulsive actions are not undertaken – even if most patients know that their compulsions are unnecessary.

Challenges of people with OCD

For someone with OCD, or as a caregiver for someone with OCD, you know that thoughts that are very random turn out to be unreasonably overwhelming. For some people, it is the irrational urge to clean, or the irresistible need to arrange objects in patterns, or overwhelmingly consuming thoughts of religious or forbidden sexual thoughts. The most common challenges of OCD are:

  • Fear of rejection or discrimination: People with OCD are constantly afraid that people would dismiss them because of their mental illness, even though discrimination based on mental health is illegal.
  • Not knowing where to find treatment: Many people with OCD say that they don’t know where to find the treatment for their illness, and others may have financial restraints in seeking psychotherapy. However, there are many financially-assisted programs for people with mental illnesses that would help them get the treatment they need free of cost or for a minimal fee.
  • Not believing symptoms to be severe enough: Many people reject treatment or help because they don’t think that their symptoms are severe enough or that getting help would improve their quality of life.
  • Fear of change: Seeking treatment may look like you’re giving up control of your life the way you’re used to, but treatment actually helps patients gain greater control.
  • Embarrassment: It is understandably embarrassing to reveal your obsessions to someone, especially if they pertain to sex or forbidden thoughts, but therapists are experienced in all kinds of obsessions and know how to deal with them.

Providing support to someone with OCD

There are four steps to help someone with OCD, and these would be especially useful if you’re a family caregiver for someone with the condition.

  • Help them develop a determination to overcome the problem. This is a tough call, and going through short-term pain for long-term gain may seem daunting, but if a patient sets their mind to it, they can greatly help themselves.
  • Make them understand that their worries are irrational. The obsessions may be powerfully disturbing, but the patient has to learn to dismiss them and realize that what they fear is not going to happen.
  • Make them see that ritualizing a compulsion is not the solution to their distress. Resisting the urges is the only way to understand that nothing will happen if they don’t act on their compulsions.
  • Help them accept their obsessions. This may seem terrifying, but once a patient learns to admit that they have obsessions and that they don’t need to act on them, they will be on the path to a better, less anxious life.

Getting support

If you are a family caregiver for someone with OCD, we understand that you’ve taken on a tough role, which is all the more applaudable. If you ever feel exhausted or stressed and want to speak with someone who relates, try ExtendaTouch’s OCD support group online. You can use the online helpline to connect with other caregivers with similar experiences. The online community members can provide you emotional support besides sharing useful information with you.