04:07pm, 08/21/14
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Thursday, August 21, 2014
Updated 8/21/14 @ 7:50 am

Date set for Pitt. Co. prayer appeal:
(Richmond, Va.) -- The attorney representing Pittsylvania County in its fight to preserve Christian prayers at Board of Supervisors’ meetings will have twenty minutes to make his arguments before a federal Appeals Court Panel on October 28th.
          The Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond announced the fate yesterday.   State Senator Bill Stanley filed the appeal two months ago, after a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding public prayers in the town of Greece, New York.
          In Pittsylvania County, a permanent injunction bars Christian prayers at public meetings Barbara Hudson and the ACLU of Virginia successfully challenged the county.   The ACLU says the Greece case has little to do with Pittsylvania County’s.

Coal Ash Cleanup bill approved:
(Raleigh, N.C.) (AP) -- North Carolina lawmakers have approved legislation they say makes the state the nation's first to address decades of toxic water pollution from residue left behind by coal-burning electricity plants.
     The General Assembly on Wednesday approved legislation addressing the problem unmasked six months ago when a coal ash spill from a Duke Energy plant coated 70 miles of the Dan River in gray sludge. The measure goes to Gov. Pat McCrory before becoming law.
     Environmentalists said the legislation improved on earlier efforts, but didn't go far enough.
     Lawmakers said the measure would reverse a Superior Court judge's ruling that Duke must take "immediate action" to eliminate groundwater contamination that crosses onto a neighboring property. Environmental attorney Frank Holleman says that will allow Duke to study the problem indefinitely before starting cleanup.

N.C.-based aid workers to be released from hospital:
(Atlanta, Ga.) (AP) -- The Atlanta hospital that's been treating two American health care workers infected with Ebola in West Africa, says it'll hold a news conference this morning to discuss the release of the two from the hospital. The aid group one of them works for says Dr. Kent Brantly has recovered. The president of Samaritan's Purse has issued a statement saying, "Today I join all of our Samaritan's Purse team around the world in giving thanks to God as we celebrate Dr. Kent Brantly's recovery from Ebola and release from the hospital."

Henry Co. gun dealer pleads guilty:
(Roanoke, Va.) -- A Bassett gun store owner avoided federal prison time yesterday by pleading guilty to two counts of illegal gun purchases.
          A grand jury last year indicted 58-year old David Carson Haskins on 18 counts of making false statements to a licensed firearms dealer.
          Haskins owns Southern Gun Inc. in Bassett.   Haskins paid people to buy guns from Town Police Supply in Collinsville---a company that provides guns to law enforcement.  Haskins then re-sold the guns on the internet.
          Haskins’ case had been on hold while the US Supreme Court weighed another Henry County gun case.  The justices upheld the conviction of Bruce Abamski---a former Franklin County Police Officer who purchased a gun in Collinsville for his uncle, but claimed to be the actual buyer.

High court blocks same-sex unions in Virginia:
(Washington, D.C.) (AP) -- The Supreme Court is delaying the start of same-sex marriage in Virginia.
      The court on Wednesday granted a request from a county clerk in northern Virginia to block same-sex marriages across the state while the issue is being appealed to the Supreme Court. The court provided no explanation for its order.
      Without court intervention, same-sex couples would have been allowed to wed as of Thursday.
      In January, the justices issued an order putting same-sex unions on hold in Utah while the federal appeals court in Denver was hearing the case. That court upheld the decision striking down Utah's gay marriage ban, but delayed its decision from taking effect pending appeal to the Supreme Court.
      Most other federal court decisions in favor of same-sex marriage also have been put on hold.

Sen. Ruff credits GOP win to Obama attack on coal:
(Southside) -- Republicans now control the Senate and House in Virginia.
    Republican Ben Chafin won Tuesday’s special election in southwest Virginia, giving the GOP 21 seats in the state Senate. Democrats have 19.
      Republican State Senator Frank Ruff attributes Chafin’s victory to what he describes as “the Obama attack on coal.” He says the 38th Senate District was drawn "as a Democrat district, but it changed very drastically after he started going after the coal industry."
      Ruff believes Republican control of both chambers will make a difference. He believes an evenly divided Senate with a Democratic Lieutenant Gover "jumbled up all those commitees and made it extremely hard to work with the House of Delegates."
     Chafin will represent the 38th Senate District and replaces Phil Puckett, a conservative Democrat who retired in June.

McDonnell takes the stand:
(Richmond, Va.) (AP) -- Taking the stand in his defense in his public corruption trial, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell says he got an inkling soon after his election that his wife had reservations about being first lady.
     McDonnell began his much-anticipated testimony Wednesday. He and his wife, Maureen, are accused of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting the dietary supplements-maker's products.
     The former governor's lawyers have suggested that Maureen McDonnell acted largely on her own to promote Anatabloc, a tobacco-based anti-inflammatory.  
     Bob McDonnell said Wednesday that he could tell she was not as happy as he was about his election and that she was upset and concerned about her role as first lady.

More charges filed in jewelry store theft:
(Wentworth, N.C.) -- A man who police say crashed a stolen car into Eden Jewelry in Reidsville is now charged with another forced entry. 40-year-old Tony Dean Smith of Eden was arrested after police say he slammed a vehicle into the Freeway Drive business Tuesday morning and stole valuables from the jewelry store.
     Detective Ray Joyce has charged Smith with breaking and entering Colonial Funeral Home in Madison, N.C. He’s also charged with possession of stolen goods, the theft of a motor vehicle, and property damage to the stolen car. Colonial Funeral Home was entered during the early morning hours of August 19th.
     Smith was placed under an additional $400,000 secured bond and returned to the Rockingham County Jail. He is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 10th.
Council mulls retiree bonus:
(Danville, Va.) -- One more vote from Danville City Council will give city retirees a one-time boost, just before Christmas.
          The panel last night approved a first reading on a proposal to offer a 450-thousand dollar bonus in November, to the approximately 600 city retirees.
          It was earlier in the summer when Council approved changes where retirees could get bonuses, since they are no longer eligible for cost-of-living adjustments.  But Councilman Fred Shanks says the city has already kept it’s promises.  He says it would be ill-advised to take the money out of the General Fund, or the Retirement Fund.  He and Buddy Rawley say they'll vote "no."
          But Vice-Mayor Gary Miller said they’ve already agreed to new criteria for a bonus…and those thresholds have been met.
           Last night was a first reading.  Final approval is set for next month.

Change of venue for School Board Work Session:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville School leaders are expecting a big crowd at tomorrow’s work session---big enough to force a change of venue.  They’ve moved the meeting from the Galileo High School cafeteria to the cafeteria at GW.  School Board Chairman Doctor Ed Polhamus says they want public input on what qualifications the next school superintendent should bring.  The board will also begin discussion on who conducts the search.  Former Superintendent Doctor Ed Newsome stepped down this summer after only a year on the job.  Polhamus says more chance for public input will be held at schools all around town over the next several weeks.

Grand jury indicts Ringgold woman in husband’s murder:
(Chatham, Va.) -- A Pittsylvania County woman has been indicted by a grand jury in connection with her husband’s stabbing death.
     36-year old Teu Medley Pointer is charged with second-degree murder in the April tenth stabbing death of her husband, John.
       Police were called to the Pointers’ home in Ringgold on April 10 after receiving a call that someone in the home had been stabbed. The victim was her 35-year-old husband.
       The couple's two small children were at home when police arrived and are now living with their grandmother.
       During her bond hearing in April, defense attorney Glenn Berger said John Pointer hit his wife in the face and held her down. But Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Haskins said Teu Pointer had anger issues and stabbed her husband to death.
      A grand jury indicted Pointer Monday on a charge of second degree murder.
      Mrs. Pointer was a special education/guidance teacher at the Regional Alternative School in Dry Fork. She was an employee of the Pittsylvania County school system for 12 years.
Danville Utilities Dept. under investigation; 3 employees fired:
(Danville, Va.) -- Three employees of the Danville Utilities Department have been fired and criminal charges have been filed against two after an investigation into financial irregularities.
     A news release from City Manager Joe King says the Danville Police Department is investigating “irregularities” involving certain work groups within the department.
     A probe was launched by police after an internal audit last fall brought irregularities to King’s attention.
     The investigation involves “possible” abuse of overtime pay and illegal use of company credit cards. Police are also investigating improper activities involving contracts.
     King said that -- to date -- the investigation has resulted in three terminations, with criminal charges brought against two of the former city employees.
     He said the office is cooperating with police and the commonwealth’s attorney and declined to comment on specifics of the probe, adding that he intends to “provide more detailed information at the appropriate time.”


Grove Park fire started in unattended cooking:
(Danville, Va.) -- A fire in the Grove Park subdivision caused heavy damage to a brick rancher.
     Units from at least four stations responded to the fire, which was reported just after 11:30 Monday morning.
      Fire and smoke were visible from the roof, windows and eaves when the first units arrived.
      The home at 116 Oakwood Place sustained heavy damage.
      The homeowner was out of the house when rescue personnel arrived but was taken to the hospital for treatment of what were described as minor injuries.
     The blaze started in the kitchen in some unattended cooking and spread quickly throughout the residence.
    A ladder truck responded, along with units from stations 1, 3, 4 and 7, the haz-mat team and the Danville Life Saving Crew.
     Firefighters were still on the scene long after the fire was contained, dousing hot spots, venting smoke and conducting clean-up operations.
     The Danville Fire Marshal investigated. (photos: Leonard Harville)

Roman Eagle expansion approved:
(Danville, Va.) -- Danville City Council this week cleared the way for Roman Eagle to begin an eight-(m) million-dollar expansion at their nursing home facility.  Council approved a rezoning that will allow the existing north wing to be expanded. The expansion will create a dedicated rehab unit with a total of private rooms.  Plans also call for the lower level to be converted into a wellness center that’ll be used by Roman Eagle employees…and by local seniors.

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