‘Some Response’ indeed: Horse tosses rider during race, hoofs it down Route 50

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It’s not something you see everyday, even in Virginia’s horse country — a riderless steeplechase horse, galloping full speed down a crowded Route 50 in Fauquier County, with two mounted huntsmen giving chase.

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

What started as a day of steeplechase at Salem Farm, just east of Upperville, Virginia, quickly turned into a heart-stopping, odd, dangerously wacky attempt to save the life of a valuable horse, and avoid dangers to nearby people.

Betsy Burke Parker, a reporter with the Fauquier Times, was covering the first race of Saturday’s Piedmont Foxhounds Point-to-Point.

An Irish-bred horse named Some Response, in his first race in the U.S., tossed his rider after hitting a fence. After following the other horses for a short while, Parker said the horse careened toward a fence, along Route 50.

“He jumped this three-board fence, just as pretty as a picture — looked like a show jumper,” Parker said. “He took one stride, hit that pavement of U.S. Route 50, and headed into town.”

Just less than a mile from where Some Response jumped over the fence is the picturesque unincorporated town of Upperville, population 793.

With beautiful weekend weather, Parker said the runaway horse was both a danger and in danger.

“The only thing that could catch him safely was another mounted rider,” she said.

A nearby huntsman on horseback let himself out of a nearby farm gate.

“Jordan Hicks took off in hot pursuit down the highway,” Parker said. His assistant, Lissa Green, followed.

Hicks and Green said Some Response finally stopped sprinting near the Hunter’s Head Tavern, where he was easily captured. After making sure he was unhurt, from atop her horse, Green led Some Response back up Route 50 toward Salem Farm.

“Lissa Green was ponying her horse on her right, as is normal, trotting down the middle of the road,” Parker said, followed by a sheriff’s deputy, and dozens of cars, patiently traveling behind the first responder in the single eastbound lane.

Route 50 in Virginia has a variety of lane configurations and surroundings, as it stretches 86 miles from Rosslyn to West Virginia, including through horse country.

“These commuters are fairly used to mounted horses crisscrossing the road, and foxhounds, and foxes, sometimes,” said Parker. “But a riderless horse tearing down the middle of a highway, going 30 mph, in a panic, going straight toward you — that was out of the ordinary.”

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein reported from Upperville, Virginia.


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Northam OKs bill creating African-American advisory board

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has signed legislation creating a new advisory board aimed at promoting issues important to the black community.

Northam said Friday he signed a bill creating the African American Advisory Board.

The 21-member board will advise governors on issues important to African Americans and submit annual reports to lawmakers.

The board can also undertake studies and conduct research to present to the governor as well accept and spend grant money.

The bill’s sponsor is Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Del. Lamont Bagby. He said the bill will help make sure African-Americans have influence on key decisions made by governors.

Northam has pledged to work toward racial reconciliation after a scandal over a racist yearbook photo and his admission of wearing blackface in the 1980s.


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Search warrant: Jail superintendent used inmate for home job

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STAUNTON, Va. (AP) — Records show the former superintendent of a Virginia jail is under investigation for using an inmate for work at his home and lying to investigators.

The Staunton News-Leader reports Middle River Regional Jail Superintendent Jack Lee was fired in December over the jail’s authority board’s concerns about the facility’s administration.

A search warrant unsealed March 21 says a GPS unit revealed an inmate on home electronic monitoring with work release privileges was at Lee’s home 23 times between November 2017 and May 2018. GPS monitoring also placed the inmate at Lee’s daughter’s home.

Lee told investigators the inmate worked for a contractor he hired, but that contractor said Lee had him falsify invoices.

Lee denied any wrongdoing to the newspaper. Prosecutor Tim Martin says no charges have yet been filed.


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Black police chief in Virginia says she was forced out

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (AP) — The first black woman to lead a city police department in Virginia says she was forced out, accusing a small group of officers of “bias and acts of systemic racism, discriminatory practices and abuse of authority.”

Tonya Chapman released a four-page statement early Monday, a week after she abruptly resigned from the Portsmouth Police Department.

She says her attempts to change the culture consistently met with resistance from some members of police, some of whom “quite frankly did not like taking direction from an African American female.”

Despite working closely with the city manager during her three-year tenure, Chapman says the city manager made her resign “under duress” and without warning.

City Manager L. Pettis Patton did not immediately return a call Monday seeking comment.

Portsmouth, with a population of nearly 100,000 people, is about 52 percent black. Home to a large Navy medical center and a sprawling shipyard that serves the U.S. Navy, it sits across the Elizabeth River from Norfolk and is a short drive to the Atlantic Coast.

Chapman said she could not provide additional information about her forced resignation, but suggested it was driven by “members of a highly influential fraternal organization” who had tried unsuccessfully for more than two years to generate a vote of “no confidence” in her. She said some of those people were recently disciplined for policy violations.

Chapman said she knew running the police department would be a challenge, but became acutely aware of racial tensions within the ranks after a former officer was convicted in the 2015 shooting of a black man.

Officer Stephen Rankin shot and killed William Chapman II outside a Walmart. The 18-year-old was unarmed and had been suspected of shoplifting. Rankin, who is white, claimed self-defense, saying that Chapman knocked away his stun gun and then charged at him.

Rankin was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in 2016.

“Having been a member of two other law enforcement agencies, I have never witnessed the degree of bias and acts of systemic racism, discriminatory practices and abuse of authority in all of my almost 30-year career in law enforcement and public safety,” she wrote.

Her statement also included a list of crime reduction statistics and community engagement initiatives established during her tenure.


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Herndon man charged in connection with white nationalist group’s posters

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This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, RestonNow.com, and republished with permission.

A Herndon, Virginia, man is facing charges after Vienna police say he was caught placing posters for a white nationalist group around the town, Reston Now has learned.

Last Saturday afternoon, a caller told police that two men were placing posters on light posts at a shopping center at 180 Maple Avenue, according to Vienna police.

Officers responded and observed one of the men placing a Patriot Front poster on a Town of Vienna utility box in the area of Nutley Street and Maple Avenue, Vienna officials told Reston Now.

Patriot Front is identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a “white nationalist hate group.” It was described as a “political activist organization” in Vienna’s weekly crime report; an inquiry from Reston Now confirmed that Patriot Front was the group behind the posts.

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Police issued a summons to a 21-year-old man from Longleaf Lane in Herndon for destruction of property, and the man was released on his signature, the report says. The Vienna Police Department does not release the names of criminal suspects in its crime report.

Earlier this year, Patriot Front tweeted that its “activists” put up the posters around Herndon and Reston in January and then in Reston again in February and March. Posters were also recently placed around Vienna and Arlington, according to the group’s social media account.

The posters include slogans like “reclaim America” and “better dead than red.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Patriot Front broke off from the alt-right group Vanguard America in the aftermath of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va.


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Reagan National, BWI in top 20 worst for flight cancellations in 2018

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Reagan National Airport had the most canceled flights among the Washington, D.C. region’s three major airports last year, based on the number of scheduled flights per number of flights canceled, according to InsureMyTrip.com.

The online travel insurer compiled data from the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics for all of 2018, ranking the nation’s 75 busiest airports for flight cancellations.

In 2018, 3.14 percent of scheduled flights at Reagan National were canceled, ranking it ninth worst among the 75 American airports ranked.

At BWI Marshall Airport, 2.25 percent of scheduled flights were canceled last year, making it the 19th worst.

Dulles International Airport ranked 33rd for canceled flights in 2018, at 1.7 percent.

New York’s LaGuardia Airport had the highest percentage of canceled flights of any ranked airport for the second year in a row, at 4.09 percent. InsureMyTrip said a major blizzard on January 18, 2018 was a contributing factor, forcing LaGuardia to temporarily shut down.

Severe weather was to blame for most cancellation blocks in 2018, including the Jan. 18 winter storm, as well as hurricanes Florence and Michael.

Salt Lake City International Airport ranked best in 2018 for the smallest percentage of scheduled flights that were canceled, at 0.30 percent.

Here are the 25 airports most prone to cancellations in 2018 from InsureMyTrip, based on percentage of scheduled flights canceled:


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Arlington may soon be able to change name of Jefferson Davis Highway

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Arlington County might be able to do away with the name of Jefferson Davis Highway before Amazon.com Inc. starts settling in along the busy corridor in Crystal City.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued an advisory opinion Thursday saying the state’s transportation board can rename Jefferson Davis Highway in Arlington, also known as U.S. Route 1, provided the county’s board adopts a resolution requesting a name change.

The opinion follows years of obstacles that prevented the county from changing the state-sanctioned name. Jefferson Davis was the president of the Confederacy and a congressman from Mississippi, and the Democrat-leaning county has long sought to make a change. State law has prevented counties from altering road names established by the state legislature. The General Assembly, controlled by the Republicans, has not been supportive of Arlington’s efforts in the past.

Alexandria, which is an independent city and able to make its own determinations, moved…

Read the full story from the Washington Business Journal.


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Virginia ends Feb. with all time-high in employment

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Virginia was one of only few states where the unemployment rate rose in February, although the commonwealth’s total labor force reached a record high.

The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said Virginia’s February jobless rate was 2.9 percent, up from 2.8 percent in January and down from 3.2 percent a year earlier.

Virginia’s total labor force grew by more than 8,900 jobs from January to February, the eighth consecutive monthly gain, although its annual job growth rate was less than 1 percent.

Virginia ended February with a labor force of 4.35 million, an all-time high.

Maryland’s unemployment rate in February was 3.7 percent, unchanged from January and down from 4.2 percent a year earlier Maryland added more than 5,200 jobs from January to February.

Iowa, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Vermont all tied for the lowest state unemployment rate in February, at 2.4 percent.

Alaska had the highest February unemployment rate, at 6.5 percent.

The highest annual job growth rates were in Nevada, and Utah, at 3.5 percent and 2.9 percent respectively.


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Prosecutors slam ‘free speech’ argument in riot case

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Prosecutors say two men indicted on federal riot charges in the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville are not protected by the First Amendment.

The Daily Progress reports that U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen made the argument in response to a motion to dismiss the indictment from lawyers for Benjamin Drake Daley and Michael Paul Miselis.

Daley, Miselis and two other members of the white supremacist Rise Against Movement were indicted in November on charges that include traveling from California to Charlottesville to incite, promote and participate in a riot before and during the rally in August 2017.

Defense lawyers say their actions were protected by the Constitution.

In his written response, Cullen said the case is “not about free speech or the right to assemble for political purposes.”


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Chelsea Manning supporters demand her release from solitary

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — Supporters of Chelsea Manning have called for her release from prolonged solitary confinement at a Virginia jail, but an official disputes that she’s being held in those conditions.

Former Army intelligence analyst Manning was sent to jail March 8 for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks. She served years in prison for leaking troves of classified U.S. documents.

The Chelsea Resists group says in a Saturday news release that Manning “has been kept in her cell for 22 hours a day. This treatment qualifies as Solitary Confinement.”

Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne says in a statement that the group’s accusations “are not accurate or fair.” The sheriff says the facility does not have solitary confinement but uses “administrative segregation” and inmates have access to visits, books and recreation.


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