Charlottesville Breaking News

Mann act: 'Hockey stick' scientist returns to UVA

"It's not wrong to be wrong," says Michael Mann, author of the famous "hockey stick graph," the controversial image of a recent spike in global temperatures.

Speaking on the quest for knowledge in a divisive political climate, the climate scientist made his first public return to the University of Virginia since the state's attorney general began suing, trying to see if he committed any fraud when on the faculty. Speaking to a packed lecture hall on January 17, the Penn State professor seemed unfazed by AG Ken Cuccinelli.

"While I've borne costs, I've also borne opportunities," Mann said. "The best way I can get back at my detractors is being the most effective spokesperson I can be."

During the Q&A period, Mann asserted that deniers of climate change have received "far too much prominence" in media reports and that nations such as the U.S. and Australia– perhaps due to their history of "contrarianism" and "the rugged individualist mindset"– have rejected limits on emissions eagerly accepted by European nations.

In keeping with willingness to be wrong, Mann told the crowd in UVA's Clark Hall to remain open to new information.

"We should all be skeptics," he said. "I'd like to think I'm a skeptic."

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Pam Melampy: Clerk candidate dies from aneurysm

It started as a really bad headache over the weekend. By Monday, January 16, Pam Collier Melampy was dead from an aneurysm, says her sister, Albemarle Circuit Court Clerk Debbie Collier Shipp.

Melampy went to see her parents on January 15. "Mom was having problems with her esophagus, and they went to the emergency room," says Shipp. While they were at Martha Jefferson Hospital, Melampy's mother urged her daughter to seek treatment for the headache.

After a CAT scan and an MRI at Martha Jefferson, Melampy, who had turned 50 on December 24, was transferred to UVA Medical Center, according to her sister. "She sat up in bed and said, 'There's something really wrong with my head,'" says Shipp.

Melampy was a deputy clerk working for her sister in the county. In 2011, she ran unsuccessfully for the Charlottesville Circuit Court clerk job, first in the Democratic primary and then as an independent.

For Debbie Shipp, her sister's death marks a year of unbearable loss. On January 23, 2011, Shipp's 21-year-old son David died in an automobile accident. "It was exactly one week before the one-year anniversary," says Shipp of her sister's January 16 death.

Pam Melampy had organized a blood drive for January 23 in memory of David...

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River law: Local angler fights for river access

Several years ago, when a local angler waded into a waterway in Alleghany County, he also waded into a legal battle over property rights and public access to Virginia's rivers that has cost him $50,000 in legal fees, and counting.

Along a 14-mile stretch of the Jackson River just beneath the Gathright Dam, the cold, pure waters from the depths of Lake Moomaw, created when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a dam in the late 1960s, create one of the most ideal trout habitats in the state. Indeed, a few years ago, the Jackson's reputation as an angler's paradise prompted one savvy developer to market a high-end residential golfing community along its banks, "providing privileged access to over 4-miles of private river frontage and year-round fly-fishing."

Dargan Coggeshall, a Charlottesville business owner and long-time fly-fisherman, says he discovered a spot in front of the proposed development more than two years ago. Before selling a single lot, Coggeshall says the developer had scattered No Trespassing signs along the river bank, and had even come down to the river's edge to tell Coggeshall he wasn't allowed to fish in that part of the river because it was privately owned.

Coggeshall scoffed at the idea, as a centuries-old Virginia statute deems the beds of all rivers and streams as public property for the "purposes of fishing, fowling, hunting, and taking and catching oysters and other shellfish.”

One time, Coggeshall...

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Condo aversion: Craig's Barracks West a cautionary tale

A search of the local multiple listing service (MLS) shows 202 condo sales in the greater Charlottesville area in 2011, a 40 percent increase over the previous year that was noted in November in the market snapshot report released by Nest Realty. While these numbers can't match the soaring figures we saw in 2006, the upward trend seems encouraging, although the backers of the condominium conversion at Barracks West might disagree.

As Hook readers may recall, a spate of condo conversions in 2005 helped contribute to record sales figures the following year. Purchases of converted condos at both Hessian Hills and Carriage Hill were brisk, to say the least, and developer Hunter Craig attempted to replicate the success he enjoyed at Hessian Hills near Barracks Road by undertaking another conversion at the nearby Old Salem apartment complex, which he purchased for $31 million via a firm called Cheetah Investment Company.

Since then, Cheetah has sold only 99 of the 364 units. According to county records, many of those sales were made to other investors, a fact borne out by MLS data, which show a total of five active listings in the Barracks West complex, all investor-owned. ...

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Scanner error: NC State checks turn up in Charlottesville

Anson Parker made a New Year's resolution: To let North Carolina State University know that the scanner he bought on eBay contained copies of thousands of checks written to the school in Raleigh.

"It was millions of dollars in checks," says Parker, with bank account numbers and signatures, and some with Social Security and drivers license numbers.

Parker, who works at the Claude Moore Health Sciences library, had purchased the Canon scanner for $500 on eBay to use in his archival work, and he estimates it would have cost around $5,000 new. "It's a neat little scanner," he says.

How hard was it to discover the cache of check copies?

"It was real hard," deadpans Parker. "I had to plug it in, and it said, would you like to look at archived files?"

And when he found checks– one for $500,000– the implications of what he was sitting on alarmed him.

"Holy smokes," says Parker, who contacted the University and the North Carolina Department of Justice and didn't feel like his information was taken very seriously until January 6, when he got a phone call from his mother, who was contacted by investigators.

"I was ballistic," says Parker. "I'm 34 years old, and they call my mother? That was completely insensitive."

"This was taken very seriously," says NC State spokesman Brad Bohlander. "We received an email January...

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