Charlottesville Breaking News

Stressed and out: City spokesman resigns after bid-rigging investigation

Rob Schilling has long railed against an allegedly fortress-like atmosphere in City Hall, one that allegedly kept him in the dark even while an elected member of City Council. But, on March 21, less than two hours after a Schilling exposé revealed an improper contract award, a well-known head rolled. Citing "stress," city spokesperson Ric Barrick said he had resigned.

"I'm frankly troubled," says Schilling, "Who knows what else is going on?"

What may be known as Barrickgate was uncovered by Schilling, a self-styled watchdog and WINA radio talk show host, whose investigation began in 2010 with a Freedom of Information Act request for a week of Barrick's emails.

"I realized it was serious, and I didn't want to take it lightly," says Schilling. "That's why I took over a year to investigate it. I understood it could be detrimental to Ric Barrick."

Indeed, it turned into a criminal investigation. But the investigator, Orange-based special prosecutor Diana Wheeler, found no criminal intent– just an effort to work with a vendor who, Barrick asserted to her, provided the best graphics services for the city's TV10 cable access channel.

"There were questionable actions, some less than satisfactory answers to certain questions asked, and some apparent violations of rules and practices," th...

103 comments | read more

Holy wars: Then, now, and Iran

By Tony Perrino
Warfare is as old as humanity. Since the beginning of civilization, people have fought one another, justifying their aggression as a matter of survival. But the most vicious wars have been those fought in the name of religion.
One of the early manifestations of a holy war mentality was exhibited by Christians in the so-called Crusades. Lasting from the eleventh until the fourteenth century and depicted as a glorious adventure of noble knights, the Crusades were actually a grisly business.

Setting out from France under the banner of the Cross, those righteous warriors began by beating Jews and burning their synagogues. Then they marched across Europe, plundering their way to Jerusalem. On July 15, 1095, they entered that holy city, knelt before the tomb of Jesus, and then proceeded to slaughter every Moslem they could find until the Via Dolorosa, where Jesus had borne the cross, was flowing with blood.
This butchery was justified on the grounds that these unbelievers desecrated the Holy Land by their very presence. They represented the “anti-Christ” of Biblical prediction, which would rise up and destroy the world, if they were not themselves exterminated.
The next great religious war was fought among Christians themselves. Again, our history books depict the Reformation as a polite theological debate. But it launched...

0 comments | read more

Fiction winners: Lawyers dominate in Grisham's short-story picks

In Hollywood, everybody has a screenplay. In Charlottesville, apparently everybody has a short story, at least judging by the 141 people who entered the Hook's 11th fiction contest— nearly double the number of those who participated just three years ago.

We're still trying to analyze whether this is a trend, but the Hook's short-story judge, John Grisham, a former lawyer-turned-writer, picked lawyers-turned-short-story-writers as two of the three winners of this year's contest. Yet none of the winning stories had courtroom scenes.

Maybe it's as simple as the fact that Charlottesville has a plentitude of lawyers— maybe as many attorneys as there are writers in town. Or maybe it's something in the water.

We've had unexpected outcomes in the past, such as 2008, when, during his usual blind reading of manuscripts, Grisham picked former winner Sally Honenberg as both the second- and third-place winner. Wait a minute— she's an attorney, too. And we can boast about 2003 second-place winner Chad Harbach (from the contest's pre-Grisham era), who became a literary success story in 2011 with his book, The Art of Fielding.

2 comments | read more


Trenton, New Jersey

I remember the first time I laughed in America. It was right after I whipped a fastball at Big White Bastard’s face.

Every boy in the inner city Trenton YMCA baseball program was allowed to pitch at least one inning before the season was over. The fourth inning of our sixth game was my turn. It came after three innings of Big White Bastard’s hollering “gook” at me, the little Vietnamese kid in the outfield. Every time I touched the ball, out came various versions of gook jokes plus the occasional, slightly off-target comment about “Chinks.” The other idiots in his dugout cackled each time he did it. No one on my team gave a damn.

Big White Bastard was happy to have an audience. As I warmed up for my one inning to pitch, he used his hands to stretch his round eyes until they were squinty, and then he snorted his way through an observation that a gook could use dental floss as a blindf...

5 comments | read more

The Death Look: Donna Britt rages for a reason

Former Washington Post columnist Donna Britt has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. So why, in her household with three healthy sons and a husband, is such an acclaimed writer the one walking the dog, doing the laundry, and emptying dirty dishes from the sink?

And why does her reaction manifest itself in what she calls The Death Look?

"So many women have faced that rage when faced with men's cluelessness," says Britt, interviewed in advance of her appearance in Charlottesville. "And part of The Death Look is the anger at how we allow men to get away with it."

In her book, Brothers (& Me): A Memoir of Loving and Giving, Britt explores the compulsion that some women seem to have to do-it-all.

"It's almost embarrassing to have this impulse you can't control," says Britt. "You think of yourself as independent and autonomous, and you're doing things like your grandmother did."

Beyond the obvious sexism, she also discovered a racial element, something serious and rooted in history. For her, the key moment happened more than 30 years ago. Britt was working on her master's degree at University of Michigan when she learned that back in Gary, Indiana, where she'd grown up in a middle-class household, her brother Darrell had been shot to death by police.

It took her years to fully understand how her brother's death had affected her. One day, while meditating a...

12 comments | read more
Editor's Note
4Better Or Worse