47 DUI Arrests; Zero Fatal Crashes

RICHMOND, Va.– While the Falcons and the Patriots faced off on the field last Sunday, Virginia State Police troopers were hard at work safeguarding Virginia highways from impaired and reckless drivers.

From Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 5) through Monday morning (Feb. 6), more than 2,500 traffic stops took place across the state. Troopers arrested 47 DUI drivers with the most arrests occurring in Northern Virginia. A total of 1,185 drivers were cited for speeding. Troopers also assisted 402 disabled motorists during the “Trooper Bowl” enforcement campaign. No fatal crashes were reported.

Division I – Richmond (Metro Richmond/Northern Neck/Tri-Cities)

  • DUI (Drugs or Alcohol) = 1
  • Traffic Crashes = 0
  • Speeding Violations = 129
  • Seatbelt Violations = 19
  • Motorist Assists = 82


Division II – Culpeper (Fredericksburg/Culpeper/Warrenton/Harrisonburg/Winchester)

  • DUI (Drugs or Alcohol) = 10
  • Traffic Crashes = 9
  • Speeding Violations = 213
  • Seatbelt Violations = 18
  • Commercial Vehicle Stops = 23
  • (i.e. certification and log book checks, failure to maintain lane, aggressive driving)
  • Motorist Assists = 56

Division III – Appomattox (Charlottesville/Waynesboro/Staunton/Lynchburg/South Boston/South Hill)

  • DUI (Drugs or Alcohol) = 3
  • Traffic Crashes = 8
  • Speeding Violations = 128
  • Seatbelt Violations = 26
  • Motorist Assists = 15


Division IV – Wytheville (Wytheville/Dublin/Galax/Bristol/Vansant/Wise)

  • DUI (Drugs or Alcohol) = 8
  • Traffic Crashes = 2
  • Speeding Violations = 237
  • Seatbelt Violations = 12
  • Motorist Assists = 54


Division V – Chesapeake (Hampton Roads/Tidewater/Eastern Shore/Williamsburg/Franklin/Emporia)

  • DUI (Drugs or Alcohol) = 7
  • Traffic Crashes = 4
  • Speeding Violations = 208
  • Seatbelt Violations = 9
  • Motorist Assists = 66


Division VI – Salem (Lexington/Clifton Forge/Roanoke/Blacksburg/Bedford/Martinsville/Danville)

  • DUI (Drugs or Alcohol) = 7
  • Traffic Crashes = 9
  • Speeding Violations = 122
  • Seatbelt Violations = 19
  • Commercial Vehicle Stops = 5
  • (i.e. aggressive driving, failure to maintain lane and certification and log book checks)
  • Motorist Assists = 34


Division VII – Fairfax (Prince William/Loudoun/Arlington/Alexandria/Fairfax)

  • DUI (Drugs or Alcohol) = 11
  • Traffic Crashes = 4
  • Speeding Violations = 148
  • Seatbelt Violations = 4
  • Motorist Assists = 95


Finding Funds for Your Higher Education

By Dr. Al Roberts

A study titled “Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements through 2020” by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce noted, “The U.S. economy is slowly returning to normal—albeit a new normal—characterized by an increase in the natural rate of unemployment, permanent job losses in sectors employing the less-educated, and an ever-increasing demand for better education credentials and upskilling across an array of new fields.” The study also notes trends indicating that by 2020, 65% of all jobs in the national economy will require postsecondary education.

Obtaining a postsecondary education, however, can be costly. To succeed, most students need financial assistance.

Eligibility for federal financial aid is determined by a formula that considers family income, enrollment status (full or part-time), and costs of attendance, which include tuition, fees, books, materials, housing, food, transportation, and personal expenses. For most students, federal aid comprises the largest portion of an overall financial assistance package.

In addition to the federal government, primary sources of education funds include state and local governments, postsecondary institutions, employers, and private entities. The major types of financial aid are grants, scholarships, tuition reimbursement programs, loans, and work-study programs. For students in courses that lead to workforce credentials, financial assistance is available through opportunities such as Virginia’s New Economy Workforce Credential Grant and the Financial Assistance for Noncredit Training that leads to Industry Credentials (FANTIC) program.

At Southside Virginia Community College, our Financial Aid Department works with students to ensure they receive the maximum benefits for which they are eligible. In fact, 94% of students at SVCC receive some type of grant or scholarship.

The process of applying for financial aid begins with completing a standardized form called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Instructions and helpful videos for completing the FAFSA can be found on the College’s Financial Aid Webpage at southside.edu/financial-aid.  SVCC’s Financial Aid Department can also provide one-on-one assistance to anyone who needs help filling out the FAFSA. Just call 855-877-3943 or stop by the Christanna Campus in Alberta or the John H. Daniel Campus in Keysville between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

People seeking financial assistance so they can pursue short-term industry-approved credentials in high-demand careers, such as certified nursing assistant (CNA), power line worker, commercial truck driving, or precision machining, can get more information by calling 434-949-1026 or 434-736-2004.

Students are also invited to apply for scholarships administered by the SVCC Foundation. These awards are funded by private individuals, civic organizations, and others who establish scholarships as a way to give back to the community. An application portal with access to more than 50 different scholarship programs is available at southside.edu/college-foundation.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

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Bill would outlaw female circumcision

By Haley Winn, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The General Assembly is considering a bill that would make the practice of female genital mutilation a misdemeanor – but that penalty is much less than the sponsors originally intended.

The bill, which has cleared the Senate and is now in the House, would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor to perform any circumcision or infibulation of the labia majora, labia minora or clitoris of a minor – or for parents or legal guardians to consent to the procedure for a girl. A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

When the legislation was introduced, it proposed making it a Class 2 felony for parents or guardians to allow a minor to undergo female genital mutilation, or FGM, which is practiced in certain cultures in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Someone who performed the procedure would have faced at least five years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

At the beginning of the legislative session, two bills in the Senate called for the criminalization of FGM: SB 1060introduced by Sen. Richard Black, R-Loudoun County, and SB 1241,by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico County, who is also an obstetrician.

During the committee process, the two bills were merged and went forward as SB 1060. While in committee, the proposed penalties were changed to misdemeanors. And that is how the bill read when it was passed unanimously by the Senate on Feb. 2. The legislation is now being considered by the House Courts of Justice Committee.

No law in Virginia specifically bans the practice of FGM. The offense falls in the category of malicious wounding and aggravated malicious wounding, both of which are felony offenses.

FGM is common in such countries as Somalia, Egypt, Mali and Nigeria, as well as in parts of Malaysia and Indonesia. It is also common in some immigrant communities in North America, Europe and Australia.

A common misconception about FGM is that it is practiced by only Muslims. In fact, experts say, the practice is not specific to any religion and is rooted in culture and tradition. According to Human Rights Watch, FGM is practiced by some members of the Islamic, Christian and Jewish faiths.

Under the legislation sponsored by Black and Dunnavant, people charged with practicing or allowing FGM could not claim as a defense that it was “required as a matter of custom, ritual, or religious practice” or that the minor had consented.

Largely because it is home to people from other countries, Virginia is listedas one of the states where women and girls are at the highest risk of being victims of FGM.

FGM has been a crime under federal law since 1996. In 2013, President Obama signed the Transport for Female Genital Mutilation Act, which outlawed “vacation cutting” – sending a minor abroad to undergo the procedure.

According to the AHA Foundation, which works to oppose violence against girls and women, 24 stateshave laws criminalizing FMG. They include Maryland, Tennessee and Delaware.

In 2016, a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that more than 513,000 females were at risk of, or have experienced, FGM. About 169,000 of those individuals were minors.

In January, Black released a statement calling FGM “barbaric.”

“This physical torture of little girls is a violation of the rights of children,” he said.

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Snakehead infiltrates Virginia waters and legislation

By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Lurking in the depths of the Potomac River is a wriggly monster that can grow to four feet long. With its sharp teeth, the snakehead devours other fish, and biologists fear it could spread across the country. It may not be the second coming of “Jaws,” but Virginia officials view the invasive species as a possible threat.

To keep the snakehead in check, Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, has introduced a bill to increase the penalty for people who introduce the non-native fish into state waters.

Currently, the law only prohibits bringing snakeheads into Virginia; the penalty can be a fine of up to $500. SB 906would make it illegal to take a snakehead that is already in Virginia and introduce it into another body of water. Under the legislation, violators would be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Surovell’s bill easily passed the Senate last month and won a unanimous endorsement Wednesday from a subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources. Now it will go to the full committee and then the House of Delegates.

Surovell said the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries came to him last fall and told him that people were trying to move snakeheads around the commonwealth. VDGIF officials believed the threat of jail time would be a stronger deterrent than a fine.

John Odenkirk, a marine biologist who has studied the effects of the snakehead fish on the Potomac, agrees.

“We convicted someone three years ago, but that was a Class 3 misdemeanor, which was only a $50 fine,” said Odenkirk, who works for the VDGIF.

The snakehead, which is native to Eastern Asia, was first discovered in the U.S. in 1977. In 2004, the species was found in the Potomac River, where it spread to Maryland and Virginia.

Surovell said that so far, the species has not had a negative impact on the Potomac’s ecosystem. They have been feeding mostly on bluegill fish. Raptors, like hawks and eagles, have started hunting snakehead fish for food, coexisting with the invasive species.

“I think snakeheads are a much-maligned fish,” Surovell said. “They’ve got kind of a bad reputation when they first showed up, but they taste pretty good.”

Odenkirk said it’s too soon to determine if the species is benign or a threat to the ecosystem.

“There’s still a big unknown. We are down this road a little ways, but we still have a ways to go,” Odenkirk said. “They are coming into equilibrium, which often happens with a new species. We are hoping they run their course, but we are still not sure. There could be damage to the ecosystem if their numbers increase.”

The main problem, officials said, is people trying to introduce the snakehead into other areas of the state. Many people enjoy fishing for snakeheads because they require different lures and are trickier to catch.

While the species may be able to coexist in a large and busy body of water like the Potomac River, experts worry that it could do a great deal of damage in a smaller river or lake.

“The concern is that snakeheads have been completely untested in much smaller environments,” Surovell said. “So if you put one of these things in Smith Mountain Lake, it has an entirely different (effect) than it does in the Potomac.”

According to a fact sheet by USGS, snakeheads can threaten an ecosystem by eating up the fish population or becoming a direct competitor for food. Additionally, snakeheads can carry parasites and diseases that could kill local species.

Another invasive species that could threaten Virginia waters is the zebra mussel, which is banned under existing law.

According to VDGIF, the zebra mussel is native to Eastern Europe and first appeared in the United States in 1988. It wasn’t until 2002 that the mussels invaded Virginia waters. Odenkirk was the first person to verify that zebra mussels had infested the Millbrook Quarry in Prince William County, where people go scuba diving.

The problem was caught soon enough that zebra mussels were eradicated from the area. It was suspected that the mussels were placed there purposely to make the water clearer for better diving conditions. Odenkirk believes this because there would have been no natural way for the mussels to have gotten into the quarry. The evidence was only circumstantial, and no one was ever convicted.

The zebra mussel is harmful to ecosystems because it filters out microorganisms that smaller fish eat and can cover hard surfaces, including endangered freshwater mussels. Zebra mussels also cling to pipes in electric power plants and municipal water systems and destroy boat rudders.

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Protesters ‘grill with #BratWorst’ outside congressman’s office

By Megan Corsano, Capital News Service

GLEN ALLEN – The feud between U.S. Rep. Dave Brat, who represents a swath of Central Virginia in Congress, and his female constituents escalated Saturday afternoon when nearly 100 Planned Parenthood advocates demonstrated outside his office here.

The demonstrators stood across from Brat’s office at the corner of Broad Street and Cox Road in Glen Allen to protest what they see as the Republican representative’s lack of communication with his constituency.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood – for which Brat has pledged to cut off federal funding – held up signs toward the approaching traffic, eliciting honks from drivers passing by.

The crowd chanted “We are constituents!” and “Dave Brat has got to go!” as well as “We are not paid!” That was a retort to Brat’s statement in an interview that the women who had been protesting against him were “paid activists on the far left.”

Speaking to supporters at Hanover Tavern on Jan. 28, Brat responded to questions about people asking him to hold a town hall meeting with his district by saying, “Since Obamacare and these issues have come up, the women are in my grill no matter where I go.”

The quote inspired the “grill” theme of Saturday’s protest, which recruited participants through a Facebook page titled “Grilling with #BratWorst.” Women and men of all ages gathered with signs telling Brat they wouldn’t go away silently.

“We want to show him that we will remain ‘up in his grill’ until he meets with us to have a town hall,” said Nia Bentall, a community organizer for Planned Parenthood in Richmond.

Bentall said her involvement with Planned Parenthood stemmed from an experience in college when she took a friend who had been sexually assaulted to one of the organization’s clinics.

“There wasn’t anywhere else we could have gone,” Bentall said. “The care she received there was truly lifesaving, and I realized how important and what a unique role Planned Parenthood health centers play in communities. When they talk about defunding Planned Parenthood and that women can just go somewhere else, that’s not true.”

Many conservatives, including Brat, oppose Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions. Planned Parenthood says abortions constitute a small fraction of its services; the group’s critics dispute that, noting that Planned Parenthood performed almost 324,000 abortions nationwide in 2014.

Bentall recalled that when she took her friend to a Planned Parenthood clinic, they had to walk past anti-abortion protesters. She said those protesters had a judgmental and shaming mentality. Bentall said she began to start advocating for Planned Parenthood when she realized that some elected officials, including members of Congress, shared that mentality.

“Dave Brat needs to know that when he goes to Washington, D.C., his constituents are part of the overwhelming majority of Americans who do not support defunding Planned Parenthood,” Bentall said.

David Timberline, communications director for the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, said the group’s concern is that Brat has been inaccessible when his constituents have tried to reach him to find out his views about certain health care issues, particularly repealing the Affordable Care Act and defunding Planned Parenthood.

“His constituents, who are coming out here in force, want to hear what his views are,” Timberline said. “For too long, [elected officials] have been able to hide from a big slice of their constituency, largely because of gerrymandering, and they think they’re safe because they only have to respond to their slice of the electorate. This is showing them that there’s more that they need to pay attention to.”

Dolly Hintz, Timberline’s mother, was one of the women in attendance. Her main concern is that people overlook the full range of services that Planned Parenthood offers – including cancer screenings, contraceptive counseling and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases – and focus just on abortion.

“They kind of stick on that one word, and that scares them,” Hintz said. “Planned Parenthood actually provides so many services that so many women need desperately.” Hintz added that the turnout at Saturday’s protest “shows that there are reasonable people of all ages that care about this.”

Bratrepresents Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of Richmond and Henrico and Chesterfield counties and stretches as far north as Culpeper.

Brat, then a professor at Randolph–Macon College, was elected to Congress in 2014 after upsetting House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Brat has strong support among tea party conservatives.

He has calledfor repealing the federal Affordable Care Act, describing Obamacare as an “economically disastrous law and an unconstitutional power grab by our federal government” that puts America on “the Road to Serfdom.”

Brat has co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act, “which declares that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being at all stages of life, including the moment at which an individual comes into being.” As part of his pro-life agenda, Brat also has co-sponsored legislation aimed at “stripping Planned Parenthood of its taxpayer funding.” (Planned Parenthood does not receive federal funds to perform abortions; however, it gets federal money to provide other services.)

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