Fairfax Co. team rescues 6 in Harvey aftermath, begins door-to-door search

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WASHINGTON — A local rescue team is hard at work in Kingwood, Texas, helping victims of Harvey.

After hurricane and later tropical storm Harvey struck Texas, the Virginia Task Force 1 International Urban Search and Rescue team from Fairfax County packed up their swift boats and headed to the Houston area.

“Pleased to report that yesterday the crews did a full day’s work, assisting multiple residents out of flooded areas,” Fairfax County Assistant Fire Chief Chuck Ryan said.

The team rescued six people and two pets Wednesday. And as the floodwaters recede, Ryan said the team is now focused on helping the Federal Emergency Management Agency with a ground search of the area.

“Going door-to-door, checking multiple residences, occupancies, for any needs, folks left behind, and things like that,” Ryan said in a video posted to the team’s Twitter account.

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Ryan said no members of the team have been injured in the operations.

Maryland’s Task Force 1 team is helping the victims in Texas, as well. The team includes swift water rescue and hazardous material team members from Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service.

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Actor Mark Ruffalo joins march against white supremacy

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Actor Mark Ruffalo has joined activists marching from Charlottesville, Virginia, to the nation’s capital to condemn white supremacy recently on display in the Virginia city.

“The Avengers” star tweeted photos of himself Thursday in “The March to Confront White Supremacy.”

In a statement, Ruffalo says he’s marching in memory of Heather Heyer, who died when a car plowed into a group of people protesting the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12. Ruffalo also condemned President Donald Trump’s response that “both sides” were to blame for the violence.

Ruffalo says there’s “no place for racism, violence, and hatred” in the country.

Organizers said they had to stop Wednesday’s portion of the march early because they received threats of an armed person waiting for them further along the route.

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Navy commander accused in bribery scandal has hearing

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NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A Navy commander accused of accepting bribes from a Malaysian contractor who supplied the Japan-based 7th fleet has had the military’s equivalent of a preliminary hearing to show if there’s probable cause to proceed with a court-martial.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that Cmdr. Jason Starmer had the hearing at Naval Station Norfolk on Wednesday.

Starmer is accused of accepting expensive dinners, drinks, and prostitutes from Leonard Francis, otherwise known as “Fat Leonard,” in 2012 and 2013. Francis has pleaded guilty to presiding over a conspiracy involving bribes and gifts in exchange for Navy contracts in Southeast Asia.

Coast Guard Lt. Robert Canoy argued that as operations director at the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group in Bangkok, Thailand, his client wasn’t important enough to be part of a conspiracy.

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Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com

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VDOT supervisors accused of accepting bribes to award snow-removal contracts

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WASHINGTON — Two Virginia Department of Transportation supervisors are accused of accepting thousands of dollars in bribes from the owners of trucking companies who received snow-removal contracts totaling more than $9 million.

Anthony “Andy” Willie, 54 of Culpeper, and Kenneth “Kenny” Duane Adams, 41, of Fairfax, were arrested Thursday and charged with conspiracy and fraud, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

In addition, four Northern Virginia trucking company owners were arrested and are facing federal fraud and conspiracy charges.

The maximum sentence for all the charges is 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors said the two VDOT supervisors, who worked in an office in Burke, Virginia, negotiated the bribe agreements with the company owners. Under the arrangement, the company owners agreed to pay Willie and Adams a flat rate out of their hourly contracts as bribes in exchange for receiving the snow-removal contracts, which amounted to $9.1 million between 2013 and 2016.

All told, Willie and Adams pocketed approximately $140,000 in exchange for awarding the contracts, prosecutors said.

The U.S. attorney’s office identified the trucking company owners as Rolando Alfonso Pineda Moran, 50, of Alexandria, Virginia; Shaheen “Shane” Sariri, 30, of Fairfax, Virginia; John Lee Williamson, 51, of Springfield, Virginia.

Prosecutors also said Adams conspired with 50-year-old Elmer Antonio Mejia, of Aldie, Virginia, in a scheme to award a subcontract for snow removal to a company linked to Adams called Supreme Landscaping. Between 2011 and 2016, Mejia paid Adams more than $160,000, which was disguised as payment for snow-removal work to that company, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

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Image of Confederate monument removed from Norfolk mural

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NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Officials have removed the image of a Confederate monument from a mural in Virginia’s second largest city.

The postcard-style mural on the side of Norfolk’s new Waterside District had shown the city’s Confederate monument alongside other scenes and landmarks.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that by Thursday the image had been painted over and replaced with the scene of a Norfolk street. Glen Sutch, president of the Waterside District, told the newspaper that the inclusion of the monument on the mural was “inadvertent.”

Norfolk City Council recently approved a resolution declaring its desire to move the monument to a cemetery as soon as state law allows it.

Norfolk’s monument, known as “Johnny Reb” for its statue of a Confederate soldier, has stood at the site for 110 years.

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Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com

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Virginia county cancels Civil War encampment

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CHANTILLY, Va. (AP) — For the second time in recent weeks, officials in northern Virginia are canceling a planned Civil War encampment.

Judy Pedersen, a spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Park Authority, said Wednesday that re-enactors have been notified that a Civil War Encampment Weekend scheduled for Sept. 23-24 at the Sully Historic Site in Chantilly has been canceled. The note to re-enactors cited “recent events” as the reason for the cancellation.

The decision by Fairfax County comes after the City of Manassas earlier this month canceled a Civil War Weekend, citing the recent national tension over Civil War monuments.

Confederate memorials have been under increased scrutiny since deadly violence Aug. 12 at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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Descendants of Confederate general seek statue’s removal

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Two descendants of a Confederate general are calling for the removal of his statue in Virginia’s capital city.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that two brothers who are descendants of Confederate Gen. Williams Carter Wickham are urging Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and the City Council to remove a statue of the man from a park.

Clayton and Will Wickham say in a letter that the general “unapologetically accrued power and wealth through the exploitation of enslaved people.” The brothers say the removal of Confederate statues is “long overdue.”

They say they were compelled to write the letter after the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville earlier this month.

Wickham’s statue has stood in Monroe Park near the heart of Virginia Commonwealth University since 1891.

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Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.richmond.com

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Charlottesville mayor apologizes for criticizing colleagues after protests

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WASHINGTON — Charlottesville’s mayor is apologizing for his actions following the “Unite the Right” rally on Aug. 12.

In particular, Mike Signer apologized for a Facebook post “that impugned the reputations” of City Manager Maurice Jones and police Chief Al Thomas.

“I have taken several actions as mayor, and made several communications, that have been inconsistent with the collaboration required by our system of governance and that overstepped the bounds of my role as mayor,” Signer said in a statement, which was issued after a three-hour closed-door city council meeting Tuesday.

Signer’s Facebook post asserted he’d been largely shut out of security preparations for the rally by white nationalists, neo-Nazis and others.

That rally drew counterprotesters and resulted in one woman’s death. Heather Hyer, 32, was killed when a car plowed into a group protesting the event. James Alex Fields, 20, faces second-degree murder and other charges.

The mayor vowed to work with his colleagues in a more collaborative fashion, “putting the needs of the city and our community first.”

In response, the city council accepted the apology and did not request his resignation.

“We faced this challenge as a city, as leaders within it, and as individuals,” the city council said in a joint statement. “We still face challenges. We acknowledge that people in our community continue to hurt and that we have a long road ahead to address the issue of equity.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Democratic-backed Keys-Gamarra wins seat on Fairfax Co. school board

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WASHINGTON — Karen A. Keys-Gamarra, who was endorsed by the Fairfax County Democratic Party, won a special election Tuesday to fill an at-large spot on the county school board.

Keys-Gamarra, an attorney and child advocate, earned 41,519 votes in the special election, according to online election returns posted by the Fairfax County Board of Elections.

That was nearly double the 21,389 votes cast for Republican-backed Chris S. Grisafe.

Sandra D. Allen received 719 votes. Michael H. Ownens received 1,346.

Only about 10 percent of the more than 677,000 active registered voters in Fairfax County voted in the special election.

Keys-Gamarra succeeds Jeanette Hough, who resigned her term early. The term lasts until Dec. 31, 2019.

In a statement, Virginia Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Swecker praised Keys-Gamarra as “the candidate with the best understanding of the complex challenges facing the school system” and said she would address bullying and inclusive learning.

Voters in Virginia go back to the polls in November to decide statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and other offices.

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Charlottesville forms economic recovery team to revive image

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WASHINGTON — The violence surrounding a deadly white nationalist rally and counterprotests continues to hurt the small, Virginia college town cast in the role of unwilling host.

Charlottesville’s city and business leaders are trying to change the image, almost three weeks after the Unite the Right rally brought armed protesters and led to the deaths of counterprotester Heather Heyer and two Virginia State Police troopers.

The newly formed Charlottesville Economic Recovery Team includes business leaders, Mayor Mike Signer, City Councilor Wes Bellamy, City Manager Maurice Jones and Charlottesville Democratic Del. David Toscano, with help from the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

“We’re in a healing process after the traumatic events of Aug. 12,” said Susan Payne, of Charlottesville’s Blue Ridge Group advertising agency.

Payne said the group is working on three tracks simultaneously: a period of healing for the community, reconciliation for the community and reviving the city’s image.

“We’re trying to change the image of negativity and violence and hate that people have seen,” Payne said.

Instead, the group wants the public to see pre-Aug. 12 Charlottesville — “A small university town, made up of artists and academics and thought leaders and entrepreneurs and innovators.”

Payne said group will include the phrase “Cville Stands For Love” and the hashtag #standforlove. “It’s perhaps a bit of an extension of the ‘Virginia Is for Lovers’ campaign. We think this is a very positive message that can be well-received.”

Gov. Terry McAuliffe told WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” that he is “outraged” at the damage done by the violent protesters.

“I wish they hadn’t picked Charlottesville,” McAuliffe said. “None of this is helpful.”

McAuliffe and Payne spoke anecdotally about venues that have suffered dozens of cancellations and fewer customers in the wake of the Aug. 12 rally.

Payne said she believes visitors will return to Charlottesville this weekend.

“We have our first home UVA football game this Saturday, and that always does draw a lot,” she said.

Business and political leaders warn an advertising campaign without genuine reconciliation won’t be effective.

Payne said the group will not try to pretend the violence and tension do not exist.

“This has been so traumatic to our community that it has opened up dialogue and conversations that truly need to be had,” she said. “So, we are trying to do many things at the same time.”

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