Thursday, March 26, 2009

Economy: Gas prices back over $2 mark nationally, Thursday, 5:20 p.m.
Local News: Waynesboro man charged with witness intimidation, Thursday, 5:15 p.m.
Congress: Warner wins support for performance measures in budget battle, Thursday, 5:15 p.m.
Event: Spring Fling at Ladd Elementary, Thursday, 9:45 a.m.
Economy: Initial unemployment claims up again, Thursday, 9:45 a.m.
Congress: Perriello introduces veterans job-training bill, Thursday, 9:45 a.m.
Sports: JMU to play ODU in tournament matchup, Thursday, 9:45 a.m.
Local News: EMU alum to speak on NIH work, Thursday, 9:45 a.m.
State News: 3.2-mile walk to remember 4/16 shooting victims, Thursday, 9:45 a.m.
Local News: Civil War Roundtable to hold first meeting, Thursday, 9:45 a.m.
Media: Shield Law passes House, Thursday, 9:45 a.m.

 

Economy: Gas prices back over $2 mark nationally, Thursday, 5:20 p.m.

With an aura of inevitability, the price of gasoline crossed the two dollar threshold overnight for the first time in nearly five months. The national average retail price of unleaded regular gasoline increased to $2.01 at self-serve pumps across the country, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

The last time gas prices were at this level was the week before Thanksgiving, when the national average fell to $2.02 on November 20, 2008. The next day, the price of gasoline fell to $1.99 a gallon, after dropping for 64 straight days in a row.

“The rebound in gasoline prices is disconcerting to motorists and consumers,” said Martha M. Meade, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs. “By fits and starts, gas prices have been treading higher since the beginning of February. Motorists could feel it each time they pulled up to the pump in recent weeks.”

At various points gasoline prices have been see-sawing for the past few weeks. For example, they fell last week for only the third time this year. However, since last Friday, the national average has increased 7 cents a gallon when it was $1.94 a gallon.

Motorists had enjoyed a long streak of cheaper gasoline. The price of gasoline had remained below $2 for the past 17 weeks.

Motorists can find some solace in the fact that the average retail price is still well below – $1.25 to be exact, the price at this time last year. Compared to this time last year, pump prices are still almost 39 percent cheaper. In fact, the current price remained below a year-ago prices for the 22nd consecutive week.

The increase in gasoline prices follows on the heels of the surging increase in the price of crude oil. Of recent, oil prices have hit their highest level in almost four months. The price of oil has increased nearly 21 percent since the beginning of the year.

Gasoline prices peaked at historic highs last summer after reaching $4.11 a gallon on July 17, 2008. The current price is still 51.3 percent cheaper than the all-time record price.

Vehicle miles driven in the United States has dipped for 14 months in a row. It declined by 122 billion miles during that period, compared to the previous span of time. What is more, it fell 3.1 percent in January 2009, compared to the same month a year ago.

At the same time U.S. petroleum demand shrunk to its lowest level in six years. Strangely, domestic production last month, during February, was at the highest level the industry has ever witnessed, according to API. As another sign of the times, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) is forecasting that gasoline demand will decline this year by 0.3 this year, compared to 2008.

  

Local News: Waynesboro man charged with witness intimidation, Thursday, 5:15 p.m.

Pursuant to an investigation by Waynesboro Police, a city man has been charged with felony obstruction of justice by threats or intimidation of a witness.

Delos Lamont Wells, 34 was arrested Thursday afternoon after attempting to flee from officers who were there to serve the felony warrant on him at a residence in the 900 block of Fourth Street. Officers deployed a Taser and he was taken into custody without further incident.

 

Congress: Warner wins support for performance measures in budget battle, Thursday, 5:15 p.m.

U.S Sen. Mark R. Warner today successfully amended the Budget Resolution to include language requiring additional performance measurements and promoting greater transparency in health care reform and transportation spending. Warner, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, achieved unanimous support for his proposed health care information transparency amendment, and the transportation accountability measure also was added to the committee proposal.

The Budget Resolution supports expanded use of health information technology and data collection to improve patient safety and quality of care. The Warner amendment adds language promoting the use of health IT to emphasize transparency in cost and quality information for consumers. In addition, the Budget Committee chairman accepted Senator Warner’s language requiring a cost-benefit analysis and performance measurements within multimodal transportation programs, which includes projects that link more than one type of transportation, such as road, rail, ports and airports.

“Any significant health care reform must advance transparency in cost and quality information so that American consumers can be better informed about their options. Requiring this type of transparency also should influence the market to provide the best, highest-quality health care plans and services,” Senator Warner said.

“In addition, applying sound business principles to transportation will make these programs more transparent, and put us on track toward strong fiscal responsibility,” Senator Warner said. “It also will allow better and more efficient use of a modern transportation system all across the country.”

Both amendments are consistent with Senator Warner’s remarks during his maiden floor speech in the U.S. Senate earlier this week. In those remarks on Tuesday, Senator Warner called for a broad array of new accountability measurements based on credible standards that track both short- and longer-term outcomes to begin restoring taxpayer confidence in Washington. He also urged the White House to move quickly to appoint a Chief Performance Officer with wide authority to seek efficiency and savings across federal programs.

“I believe every level of government should go the extra mile in laying out exactly how federal dollars are spent, and we should honestly measure and freely disclose program outcomes,” Senator Warner said in floor remarks on Tuesday. “In the short term, creating this expectation of accountability will maximize our ‘bang-for-the-buck’ as we continue to implement the Recovery Act. Over the longer term, the same kind of fiscal focus will demonstrate that Washington can, in fact, act with both competence and restraint when it comes to spending the taxpayer’s money.”

As a result of businesslike reforms and responsible fiscal management during Senator Warner’s 2002-06 term as Governor, Virginia was designated as the nation’s “Best Managed State” after an independent review.

  

Event: Spring Fling at Ladd Elementary, Thursday, 9:45 a.m.

Ladd Elementary School is hosting a Spring Fling Fundraiser Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to noon.

Vendors on hand include Cookie Lee Jeweley, Ronnie Fisher Home Accents, Advocare health-care products, Pampered Chef kitchen tools, At Home America housewares and more.

Proceeds will go to benefit a local family in need.

 

Economy: Initial unemployment claims up again, Thursday, 9:45 a.m.

In the week ending March 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 652,000, an increase of 8,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 644,000. The four-week moving average was 649,000, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 650,000.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 4.2 percent for the week ending March 14, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the prior week’s unrevised rate of 4.1 percent.

The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending March 14 was 5,560,000, an increase of 122,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 5,438,000. The four-week moving average was 5,331,250, an increase of 123,750 from the preceding week’s revised average of 5,207,500.

The fiscal year-to-date average for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment for all programs is 4.646 million.

 

Congress: Perriello introduces veterans job-training bill, Thursday, 9:45 a.m.

Congressman Tom Perriello today announced that he has introduced legislation to increase and make permanent veterans’ benefits for on-the-job and apprenticeship training. He also announced the formation of a Veterans Advisory Board comprised of veterans from across the Fifth District who will make legislative recommendations to the congressman.

The legislation (H.R. 1098, also known as the VET-WORK bill) would provide 570,000 unemployed veterans and members of the Guard and Reserve more assistance in securing employment in today’s challenging job market. On-the-job training and apprenticeship programs typically lead to full-time, permanent employment at their conclusion.

“Similar to how the GI Bill allows veterans to pursue higher education, this bill will allow veterans to pursue vocational training and trade jobs, a key component of my economic revival plan and a crucial option for veterans re-entering the workforce. With the recent news that the jobless rate for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan wars now stands at 11%, this legislation is needed more urgently than ever,” said Perriello. “Those who fought to serve our country deserve economic opportunity when they return home, whether they want to go to college or learn a trade. I pledge to work with my colleagues from both parties to pass this legislation.”

 

Sports: JMU to play ODU in tournament matchup, Thursday, 9:45 a.m.

James Madison’s men’s basketball team continues play in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament Thursday in a semifinal game at Old Dominion.

The meeting between the two Colonial Athletic Association opponents will begin at 7 p.m. at Old Dominion’s Constant Convocation Center and will be their third meeting of the season. JMU won 70-62 Jan. 7 in the earlier 2008-09 meeting at Old Dominion, and Old Dominion won 80-74 Jan. 28 at JMU.

Thursday’s winner will advance to the tournament championship game to face the winner of the other semifinal game – Bradley (20-14) or Pacific (21-12) – at a site to be announced. Those teams meet Wednesday (March 25) at Bradley.

The Tuesday (March 31) tournament championship game will be televised by Fox Sports.

JMU will take a 21-14 record into Thursday’s game at Old Dominion, and the Dukes are coming off an 88-65 victory Monday (March 23) at Liberty in the tournament quarterfinals. JMU defeated Mount St. Mary’s 69-58 in first-round CIT play. Old Dominion is 23-10 for the season. The Monarchs beat The Citadel 67-59 in first-round CIT play and reached the semifinals by beating Belmont 70-62 Monday. Each of Old Dominion’s tournament games has been at home.

 

Local News: EMU alum to speak on NIH work, Thursday, 9:45 a.m.

A research scientist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., will discuss the ways that voltage sensors and electrical signaling happen in animal and human nervous systems at the next Suter Science Seminar at Eastern Mennonite University.

Kenton Swartz, a senior member of the molecular physiology and biophysics section at NIH, will give his presentation 4 p.m. Monday, Mar. 30, in room 104 of the Suter Science Center at EMU.

“Kenton Swartz is a leader in his field who will speak about how brain cells called neurons create (bio)electricity,” said Greta Ann Herin, assistant professor of biology at EMU. “Cells such as these control simple diffusion of charged atoms into and out of the cell using specialized gates called ion channels. Kenton will show us how ion channels’ construction makes them responsive to signals, controllable and very fast. It’s very exciting to have him come to speak,” Dr. Herin added.

Dr. Swartz joined NIH as an investigator in 1997 and was promoted to senior investigator in 2003. His laboratory uses biochemical, molecular biological and biophysical techniques to investigate the structure of voltage-activated ion channels and to explore the molecular mechanics by which these channels gate.

Swartz received a BS degree in chemistry and biology in 1986 from EMU. In 1992, he received a PhD in neurobiology from Harvard University, studying the regulation of voltage-gated calcium channels. He did postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School, where he began isolating and studying toxins that interact with voltage-activated potassium channels.

Refreshments will be served 15 minutes prior to the presentation, which is open to everyone free of charge.

 

State News: 3.2-mile walk to remember 4/16 shooting victims, Thursday, 9:45 a.m.

Lace up your running shoes and join Virginia Tech students, faculty, staff, and the greater New River Valley community as they run or walk 3.2 miles in remembrance of the 32 Hokies lost on April 16, 2007.

The “Run in Remembrance,” open to all runners, joggers, or walkers who wish to remember lost loved ones, will be held Thursday, April 16 on the Virginia Tech campus. The 3.2 mile run/walk will start at 8 a.m. at Alumni Mall near the North Main Street entrance of campus and finish on the Drillfield near the April 16 Memorial.

There is no cost to walk or run in this event.

A balloon release will signal the start of the event which will also feature a large “I Ran 3.2 for 32” banner for all participants to sign before the run. A large group photo will be taken of all runners and walkers at the conclusion of the event.

Pre-registration for the event is strongly encouraged. Visit the Department of Recreational Sports website www.recsports.vt.edu for more information.

The first 500 people who register will receive a free T-shirt. Walk-up registration will be available the morning of the event; check in for pre-registered runners and for walk-up registration will start at 7 a.m. on the Shultz lawn.

The route will be mainly on pathways and roads. The run is scheduled to take place rain or shine. Free parking will be available in the Perry Street parking lot.

The Run in Remembrance is hosted by the Department of Recreational Sports and a student planning committee comprised of representatives from the Student Government Association, Graduate Student Assembly, Residence Hall Federation, Virginia Tech Union, Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, Asian American Student Union, The Council of International Student Organizations, and Virginia Tech Board of Visitors Graduate and Undergraduate Representatives.

 

Local News: Civil War Roundtable to hold first meeting, Thursday, 9:45 a.m.

The newly formed Augusta County Civil War Roundtable invites area residents to attend its inaugural meeting April 20, 7 pm at the Waynesboro Heritage Museum. The featured speaker will be Staunton resident Waverly Adcock presenting “The West Augusta Guard and Their Role in the Civil War.” The event is free and open to all ages.

The Augusta County Civil War Roundtable was formed by local residents who share a common interest in the Civil War, and especially the roles played by the citizens and soldiers of Augusta County. “Our purpose in creating the Roundtable,” said Reed Lewis, president of the group, “is to provide a forum through which people with any level of interest in the Civil War can learn more. We hope to foster in people a desire to preserve, promote and honor the legacy of our forbears who lived through or died during that epic struggle.” The group hopes to play an active role in helping promote tourism in Augusta County through its educational programs and public events.

The Roundtable has slated for May 18, member John Huffer’s “Display of Civil War Artifacts;” June 15, author Steve French’s presentation on General Imboden; July 20, member Laura Brandt’s discussion of “Women’s Roles During the Civil War.” For more information call Reed Lewis at 213-3725, or e-mail ACCWRT@gmail.com.

 

Media: Shield Law passes House, Thursday, 9:45 a.m.

The Society of Professional Journalists is encouraged by the action of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, which today passed H.R. 985, the Free Flow of Information Act. The bill now awaits a vote before the full House.

“If this crucial bill eventually comes before President Obama, we urge him to sign it immediately and affirm his support for openness,” said SPJ President Dave Aeikens.

Known as the Shield Law, the measure would grant protections to journalists who refuse to reveal confidential sources, even when compelled by a subpoena and the threat of penal action. Currently, 49 states offer legislative or administrative protections to journalists. No such law exists at the federal level.

As the most broad-based journalism organization in the country, SPJ has been at the forefront – along with numerous media organizations – of the fight to safeguard information and ultimately maintain vital news reporting in the public interest.

“This isn’t about granting special privileges for reporters,” said Aeikens. “This fight is for everyone – the public and the press. This is about preserving and strengthening our democracy.”

The effort to enact a federal shield law has been ongoing since 2005. The most recent bill, H.R. 985, was introduced in February. Although the bill previously passed the House last year, it ultimately stalled in the Senate in July 2008, despite bipartisan support in both chambers.

While campaigning for president, both then-Senator Barack Obama and current Senator John McCain voiced their support for the bill, eventually becoming cosponsors for the Senate version.

Obama administration officials have already shown support for such a law. Attorney General Eric Holder, in his confirmation hearing, indicated he did not hold the same view as former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who recommended President Bush veto the bill if passed by Congress.

Along with SPJ, a number of other organizations have joined the effort to pass a federal shield law, including the Newspaper Association of American, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Radio and Television News Directors Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. Learn more about SPJ’s efforts by clicking here.



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