4BETTER OR WORSE- The week in review

Most refreshing remark from a public official: "I agree that it's a stupid lawsuit," says City Councilor David Brown at the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority meeting December 17 about the authority's $20 million RICO lawsuit against waste wunderkind Peter Van der Linde. Brown, however, still wants Van der Linde to pay up the $1 million in fees the authority says he owes.

Grimmest allegations: Christopher Leigh Alexander, 22, is charged with raping a child younger than 13. According to Charlottesville spokesman Ric Barrick, Alexander knew the child, and the incident was reported in early December. Alexander was arrested December 14.

Latest volley in the Perriello/Whitehead contretemps: Congressman Tom Perriello responds December 17 to Rutherford Institute director John Whitehead's demand that Perriello move his office from the Glass Building, where protesters have been asked to stay out of the private parking lot. Perriello points out that the office is close to a bus route, has free parking, and affords constituents room to assemble and petition in his office or on the public sidewalk. Whitehead, whom MSNBC's Keith Olbermann dubbed the "worst person in the world" December 14, fires back a response that suggests Perriello doesn't understand the reach of the First Amendment, and includes pocket-sized copies of the Constitution. 

Latest blow to Region Ten: Cincinnati Insurance Company files suit against the mental health organization, claiming a 2007 fire was caused by a Region Ten employee who taped a circuit breaker in a house at 150 Goodman Street where mentally handicapped clients resided. The insurance company seeks $250K in damages, Ted Strong reports for the Daily Progress.

Least competent 1: Mark Ryland Dowdy, 38, the man accused of sprinkling white powder on Klockner Pentaplast signs, is ordered into a state mental hospital December 16. Albemarle Circuit Judge Cheryl Higgins revokes the bond of Dowdy, who is representing himself on the domestic terrorism charges and who has been evaluated as having paranoid personality disorder. Tasha Kates has the story in the DP. 

Least competent 2: Augusta man Thomas Zawhorodny, 45, is declared legally insane nine years after the being charged with the murders of his brother and nephew, NBC29 reports. According to court testimony, Zawhorodny is a paranoid schizophrenic, and the judge rules him not guilty by reason of insanity.

Least competent 3: Accused father killer Moriah Robin Tolton, 32, is ordered December 15 to remain in a supervised halfway house in Harrisonburg for the 2005 slaying of his father in Gladstone, for which Tolton was declared not guilty by reason of insanity, the Progress reports.

Best ridership: Amtrak has 8,500 passengers on its new Lynchburg-to-Washington train in its first month of service, more than double projections, the Lynchburg News-Advance reports. Service started October 1, and stops in Charlottesville.

Biggest sale of a catalog retailer: Plow and Hearth's parent company, 1-800-Flowers.com Inc., is purchased by Richmond company Evergreen Enterprises for $17 million, according to TradingMarkets.com. The sale includes brands Problem Solvers, Wind and Weather, Hearth Song and Magic Cabin. Plow and Hearth was started in Madison in 1980.

Latest video casualty: Money-losing Blockbuster Inc., which has three Charlottesville stores– Pantops Mountain, Barracks Road Shopping Center, and Rio Hill Shopping Center–- plans to close all three stores January 3, according to a sales clerk. 

Best new college basketball arena in the country over the last decade: Sports Illustrated picks the John Paul Jones Arena.

Most desperate shopper: A man demands to see rings at Zale's Jewelers in Fashion Square Mall December 17, and when the clerk refuses, snatches a ring and flees, knocking down a two-year-old child, WINA reports.

Biggest Grinch: Shenandoah's town Christmas tree is swiped December 17, according to WHSV.