Charlottesville Breaking News

'One tip': Harringtons launch 'Next Girl' campaign

Approaching the second anniversary of their daughter's disappearance, the parents of murdered student Morgan Dana Harrington are unveiling a new campaign aiming to raise awareness about the vulnerability of young women to predators and to offer support to other victims' families.

Dubbed Helpsavethenextgirl.com, the multi-media campaign includes not only that website but also a Facebook page, and it launches with a series of bold online ads placed on media websites from Blacksburg to Northern Virginia aimed at sparking new leads in a case that appears to be running cold.

"Spit out Morgan Dana Harrington's killer," says one of the animated ads, featuring an airline "barf bag" bearing the composite image of a bearded black man linked by DNA to a 2005 rape in Fairfax and to Morgan's case.

Another features a photo of Morgan with the stark words: "20 years old. 5'5" tall. 6 feet under." And a third ad features images of a smiling Morgan followed by the grim composite sketch. "She was the girl next door," it reads. "Is this the guy next door?"

The ads are intended to be harsh, says Morgan's mother, Gil Harrington.

"Something ugly happened here, and I'm not going to sugar-coat it for him," she says, referring to the man she believes is responsible for killing her daughter. "From the beginning, I've tried to use clear...

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Independent's day: Clerkship-seeking Melampy runs-- again

Despite being resoundingly whupped in the Democratic primary, Pam Melampy declared her candidacy as an independent for Charlottesville clerk of court on September 27.

"We're not happy she's doing that," says Democratic co-chair Jim Nix. "She signed a document saying she would support the Democratic nominee."

Melampy contends that her over 20 years of experience in the court system make her the best choice for the $112K-a-year job, and if elected, she promises she'll donate 10 percent of her salary to the local Boys and Girls Club, SPCA, and Hospice House of the Piedmont.

"I want to take a pay cut," says Melampy. "You don't hear many people saying that."

Independent City Council candidates Scott Bandy and Andrew Williams joined Melampy as she entered the November 8 race for the second time.

Her first time as one of three Democratic candidates in the August 20 primary running against incumbent Paul Garrett and public defender Llezelle Dugger left Melampy feeling duped, she says. The Democratic Committee initially was "gung ho" about her candidacy until she had signed a check for $250 to the party and the declaration that she would only support the Democratic nominees, according to Melampy.

The support she thought she had among Dems and local lawyers evaporated when...

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Turf warriors: Silverbacks put Charlottesville on the football map

When a football team with the name Virginia Silverbacks hits the field, you might expect to see a bunch of macho guys living up to their animal kingdom namesake, flaunting their strength, agility and aggression. You'd be right, but then you might also be surprised at the colors worn by those same tough guys on this game day: black, silver and– pink? Pink socks and pink tape around ankles, knees and elbows. If it's incongruous, it's for a good cause.

"It's for breast cancer awareness," explains Silverbacks Head Coach Randy Jones, a burly, bearded 57-year-old who's dealing with a case of pre-game jitters an hour before kick-off on Saturday, September 17. As amped-up music blares over the speakers, he's pacing near the Monticello High School bleachers with his ball-cap-covered head down and arms crossed tight.

To thumping hip-hop, then Metallica's "Enter Sandman," the team runs warm-up drills on the field and periodically shouts in unison, working themselves up for what promises to be a hard-hitting game against the Virginia Ravens, the Richmond-based team that beat the Silverbacks in their first match-up in July. 

Despite that earlier loss, Jones says, he has confidence in his team tonight, and he notes the team's three defeats this season followed injuries to multiple starters.

"We lost 10 in one game," he says. Most of those players are back in action tonight, and Jones expects to take the Ravens by surprise.

"They're a go...

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He's baaack: Selfish Gene author pens one for the kids

The author of The Selfish Gene is back in Charlottesville. This time, however, the British scientist and atheist extraordinaire (he's also author of the 2006 best-seller The God Delusion) will speak at a venue that may be big enough to hold the crowds clamoring for his rational view of the world.

When he spoke here at Gilmer Hall in 2009, hundreds were shunted to overflow video-feed rooms to hear Richard Dawkins argue that, unlike religion, the theory of Natural Selection sets itself up for disapproval every day. All it would take to undo Darwin, he said then, would be to find something out of place amid the fossils– like a bunny rabbit mixed in a stratum of dinosaurs.

Now he's back in the States to launch a new lecture tour and promote a new book for teens and young adults, The Magic of Reality, to be published by Simon & Schuster on the day of his talk at UVA. We had a few minutes on the phone with Dawkins this morning.

You're 70: what do you think of other people getting to that age without entertaining the idea of a rational existence?
Dawkins: I feel pity for them, and I would like to do all in my power for children in the next 70 years to be brought up in fuller knowledge of the world in whic...

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Gripping: 'Moneyball' not just for sports fans

In the 2002 season, the nation's lowest-paid Major League Baseball team put together a 20-game winning streak, setting a new American League record. The team began that same season with 11 losses in row. What happened between is the stuff of Moneyball, a smart, intense and moving new film that isn't so much about sports as about the war between intuition and statistics.

I walked in knowing what the movie was about, but unprepared for its intelligence and depth. It centers on the character of the Oakland Athletics' general manager, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), who after a bad start as a major league player, moved over to management and was driven by his hatred of losing. In his previous season, he'd taken the A's to the World Series, only to have them lose and their best three players hired away by richer teams offering bigger salaries.

Faced with rebuilding the team at bargain basement prices, Beane became persuaded by the theories of Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a nerdy recent Yale graduate who crunched numbers to arrive at a strict cost-benefit analysis of baseball players. Full review.

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