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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12 spring festivals, events in DC area

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So long, snow. Hello, spring.

Here are 12 events — celebrating everything from flowers to food — to ring in a warmer season.

National Cherry Blossom Festival 
March 20- April 14

The near-monthlong festival in the nation’s capital features many individual events, including the Blossom Kite Festival on March 30 and the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on April 13.

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Anacostia River Festival 
Sunday, April 14, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. 

The Anacostia River Festival, now in its fifth year, encourages recreation along the Anacostia River with canoe rides, a bike parade, lawn games and more. This year’s festival is the official closing event of the 2019 National Cherry Blossom Festival.

(WTOP File Photo)

DC Beer Festival
April 20; noon-3 p.m. or 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

Celebrate the best of regional and national beers at the annual DC Beer Festival at Nationals Park. This year’s event will include pours of 200 beers from 80 breweries, plus bites from local food trucks.

(AP/Seth Wenig)

Spring Azalea Tours at the National Arboretum 
April 19, 24, 26, 29, and May 12 

It’s not all about the cherry blossoms this time of year in D.C. The azaleas are also blooming, and you can catch them in peak perfection at the National Arboretum.

(AP/David J. Phillip)

The National Cathedral Flower Mart
May 3 and 4

A signature spring event in D.C., the annual Flower Mart at the National Cathedral showcases flowers, food and plenty of family activities, including an antique carousel.

(Photo courtesy All Hallows Guild)

Around the World Embassy Tour 
May 4, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Travel the world, no passport required. The Around the World Embassy Tour allows the public access into many of the embassies located in D.C. Experience global food, culture, music and more.

(WTOP/Rachel Nania)

National Food & Wine Festival
May 4 and 5 

This year marks the 10th annual Food & Wine Festival at National Harbor. Attend a cooking exhibit, learn all about wine pairings, and taste chef-prepared dishes.

(AP/Chris Tilley)

Maryland Craft Beer Festival
May 11, noon to 5 p.m.

The Maryland Craft Beer Festival celebrates 40-plus Maryland breweries (including some that aren’t even open to the public). Live music, food and other activities are also promised.

(Getty Images)

DC Bike Ride 
Saturday, May 18

Pedal through 20 miles of D.C.’s most scenic streets without a single car in sight at the annual DC Bike Ride. This event is less about racing and more about recreation.

(Courtesy DC Bike Ride)

Mount Vernon Spring Wine Festival & Sunset Tour 
May 17-19 

Sample Virginia wines and take in the views from the residence of the county’s first president along the Potomac River. There’s also live music and tours. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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