Annual Va. tornado drill scheduled for March 17

Virgainia Department of Emergency ManagementRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Nearly 400,000 Virginians have registered to participate in a statewide tornado drill. The March 17 drill is intended to prepare businesses, schools and colleges, families and individuals in the event of a tornado. The annual drill is a joint effort of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and the National Weather Service. Jeff Stern is state coordinator of emergency management. He says 12 tornadoes hit the state in 2014, causing numerous injuries and more than $700,000 in property damage. Registration for the tornado drill is not necessary, but people can learn more by signing up at www.ReadyVirginia.gov.

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Critics say Va. ethics bill won’t prevent another scandal

STATE-NEWSRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Critics say new ethics legislation passed by the Virginia General Assembly won’t accomplish its main goal: preventing another scandal like the one that engulfed former Gov. Bob McDonnell. Lawmakers passed ethics reform bills in the final minutes of the 2015 legislative assembly last week. Proponents said the bill, with new limits on gifts and travel, will help restore the public trust following McDonnell’s conviction on corruption charges last year. But critics say there were many issues highlighted by the McDonnell scandal that lawmakers have not addressed in two straight legislative sessions. For instance, Fairfax County Democratic Del. Scott Surovell said there’s still no provision preventing public officials from accepting loans with highly generous terms like McDonnell and his wife did with vitamin salesman Jonnie Williams.

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Sweet Briar College to close because of financial issues

Sweet Briar CollegeSWEET BRIAR, Va. (AP) _ Sweet Briar College will shut down this summer because of financial issues. The private women’s college in Sweet Briar announced the Aug. 25 closure Tuesday in a news release. The college says its board of directors approved the closure on Saturday. Sweet Briar attributed the decision to what it calls “insurmountable financial challenges.” President James F. Jones says in the release that he, the board and several alumnae have searched for solutions. But they concluded they couldn’t change two realities. Jones says one reality is a decline in the number of students who choose to attend small, rural, private liberal arts colleges. The other is the unsustainability of an increase in the college’s tuition discount rate.

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Defense seeks delay in man’s trial over U.Va student’s death

Jesse Matthew  (Photo: Charlottesville PD)

Jesse Matthew
(Photo: Charlottesville PD)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) _ Attorneys for the man charged with abducting and killing a University of Virginia student are asking a judge to delay his trial. Media outlets report that Jesse Matthew Jr.’s lawyers filed a motion for a continuance Monday. They also asked the state to provide a DNA expert. Albemarle County Circuit Judge Cheryl Higgins is expected to consider the requests at a hearing Wednesday. The 33-year-old Matthew is charged in 18-year-old Hannah Graham’s death. His trial on charges of abduction with intent to defile and first-degree murder is scheduled to begin June 29. Matthew also faces trial June 8 on charges of attempted murder and sexual assault in Fairfax County. Authorities also say forensic evidence links Matthew to slain Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington. He has not been charged in that case.

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Virginia exports grow to $19.2 billion in 2014

STATE-NEWSRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Exports of goods from Virginia to more than 230 destinations around the globe increased about 6 percent in 2014. The Virginia Economic Development Partnership says exports rose to $19.2 billion last year, up from $18.1 billion in 2013. Manufactured goods accounted for 79 percent of all Virginia merchandise exports in 2014, followed by agricultural exports and mineral fuel. Agricultural exports rose 16 percent to $2.9 billion. Virginia’s top commodity was industrial machinery, totaling $2.5 billion. Electrical machinery was the second-largest, followed by vehicles and plastics. For the 18th consecutive year, Canada topped the list of destinations for Virginia exports and totaled about 19 percent of all the state’s exports. China was second on the list with 10 percent of the exports and Mexico was third with more than 6 percent.

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Former Va. governor’s appeal cites broad bribery definition

Bob and Maureen McDonnell (Associated Press photo)

Bob and Maureen McDonnell
(Associated Press photo)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is appealing his public-corruption convictions. McDonnell filed a “notice of appeal” Monday with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. The court has scheduled arguments in the case for the week of May 12. A jury in September found the McDonnells guilty of doing favors for a nutritional supplements executive in exchange for $165,000 in gifts and loans. The former governor was sentenced last month to two years in prison. His wife was sentenced on Feb. 20 to one year and one day in prison. Both are free on bond. Maureen McDonnell’s notice of appeal was filed earlier Monday. In the appeal, Bob McDonnell argues that his convictions were based on a definition of bribery that would make virtually every politician a criminal.

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Lumber Liquidators stands behind products as stock plunges

WLNI-STOANO, Va. (AP) _ Lumber Liquidators is refuting a “60 Minutes” report that raised health concerns about some of its laminate flooring products and pushed its stock price to its lowest level in more than two years. In a printed statement on Monday, Lumber Liquidators said all of its laminate flooring meets the safety standards set by regulators throughout the U.S. The defense came the day after “60 Minutes” aired findings that some of Lumber Liquidators’ flooring made in China had high levels of formaldehyde, a carcinogen. The tests by three certified labs concluded the amounts of formaldehyde failed to meet California’s emissions standards. Lumber Liquidators’ stock plunged $11.15, or more than 21 percent, to $40.71 in early afternoon trading. Earlier in the session, the shares fell to $8.19, the lowest since July 2012.

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U.Va. to hold town hall meetings on campus safety

UVA-LogoCHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) _ Campus safety is the focus of three town hall meetings at the University of Virginia this week. The Daily Progress reports that each meeting will be hosted by a working group covering one of three topics _ prevention, response and culture. The Prevention Working Group met on Monday, followed by the Response Working Group’s meeting on Tuesday. The Culture Working Group will meet on Wednesday. The groups will take their suggestions to the Ad Hoc Group on University Climate and Culture. University President Teresa A. Sullivan appointed the ad hoc group in December following a Rolling Stone article about an alleged fraternity house gang rape. Police have said there’s no credible evidence of an assault and other parts of the story have been called into question.

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Virginia peanut growers had a productive 2014

US-Department-of-AgricultureThe Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says growers broke national records with a yield of 4,350 pounds per acre. That is based on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. The Virginia yield was several hundred pounds more than the national average yield. Virginia growers credit several factors for their success, including improved seed varieties and longer rotations. The state’s top producers were Walter F. Drake Jr. and his sons, Matt and Jason, from Southampton County. In 2014, Drake Farms yielded 6,058 pounds per acre on 119 acres. Virginia’s peanut crop is grown in the southeastern part of the state.

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2015 Virginia legislative session wraps up with ethics rules

STATE-NEWSRICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s 2015 legislative session is in the books. Lawmakers adjourned Friday after passing legislation at the last minute aimed at tightening the state’s ethics rules for public officials and curbing sexual assaults on Virginia’s college campuses. The ethics-reform proposal puts a $100 cap on gifts lawmakers can accept — including meals, entertainment and travel — from lobbyists and their clients, or others seeking to do business with the state. Lawmakers were spurred to reform the state’s ethics rules following the conviction last year of former Gov. Bob McDonnell on corruption charges. Other measures passed this session include legislation assuring that a mother can breastfeed her baby in public, Virginia’s first effective medical marijuana legislation, and a bill that adopts two new official state songs.

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