Charlottesville Breaking News

Tremor rocks Cville!

1:52pm: Whoa! We just had a long tremor/earthquake? here on the Downtown Mall just seconds ago! Stay tuned for more.

2:10pm: According to the latest information, the epicenter was between Charlottesville and Richmond, but a lot more powerful than the the one we felt in 2003 that measured 4.5. Reports are coming in that it was felt in Virginia Beach, Washington D.C., North Carolina, New York, and as far north as Canada. The quake seems to have disrupted cell phone communications as well. State Captial and General Assembly buildings were evacuated.

"I thought the Pavilion where I live was going to collapse," reports UVA professor Larry Sabato, "seriously."

2:31pm update: The USGS measures it at 5.9 on the Richter Scale and puts the epicenter about 0.1 miles underground and about four miles southwest of the town of Mineral. Hook map.

2:59pm update: The nukes at North Anna have reportedly been shut down as a safety precaution. According to Virginia Tech, this quake slightly surpasses the 5.8 intensity of the previous modern-day record-holder in Virginia: a last-day-of-May ...

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Mixed message: Why Huja, Galvin, Smith won Dem primary

The nomination of Democratic candidates Satyendra Huja, Kathy Galvin, and Dede Smith in a bitterly divided City Council primary offered a couple of firsts: no African-American earned a Democratic nomination for the first time in 30 years, sitting councilors made endorsements, and mass mailings funded by environmental groups and a business PAC urged voters to go with candidates who support the new-dam/pipeline water plan.

The Democratic party chose its candidates for City Council in the daylong firehouse primary August 20, followed by a grueling, six-hour count in the instant run-off process in which voters ranked the candidates. It was a victory for those supporting the Meadowcreek Parkway, dam/pipeline water plan, and what some call the old guard of the Democratic machine. But not totally.

Because along with incumbent Huja and Galvin on the side that wants to move forward with the hot-button projects previously approved by Council, anti-dam, anti-Parkway candidate Dede Smith joins them, squeaking onto the November ballot with 31 votes more than Paul Beyer in the field of seven, a tally verified by an August 22 recount of a final fifth round.

Even the usually staid clerk of court race brought a stunning upset, with challenger Llezelle Dugger garnering more than twice as many votes as three-term incumbent Paul Garrett.

The predominant issue was which side of t...

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Corridor cleaning: Strings attached to 29 Bypass money

When Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton told the Metropolitan Planning Organization July 27 which Charlottesville and Albemarle projects he'd recommend funding in addition to the Western U.S. 29 bypass, many may have overlooked his letter's last two paragraphs, in which he laid out what Albemarle is expected to do in return: come up with a plan to limit access on the rest of U.S. 29.

What that means exactly is less certain, but it could include measures that some bypass supporters objected to when bottleneck-avoiding solutions like the grade-separated interchanges were proposed during the so-called "Places 29" planning process.

Both Chamber of Commerce president Tim Hulbert and MPO director Steve Williams see no quid pro quo in Connaughton's letter and say that "access management," as it's called in transportation circles, is neither surprising nor unreasonable.

But Connaughton himself utters the "q" words and says that Albemarle will be a "test bed" for access management as a Corridor of Statewide Significance (of which U.S. 29 is one of 11 VDOT has identified).

"This is all new," Connaughton says in a phone interview. "We've never done this before. How do we put teeth into the designation?"

He lists some ways: limiting curb cuts and traffic lights, better light synchroniza...

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Un-super size me: Can city schools stem the obesity epidemic?

If Ivana Kadija ever hears Tony the Tiger telling kids his Frosted Flakes are "Grrrrreat!" she'll probably tell him to shut his furry trap. It's high-sugar food like that, says Kadija, chair of Charlottesville's School Health Advisory Board and a recently announced School Board Candidate, that's leading more local youths down the wide path to obesity and diabetes. Citing statistics that show a full one-third of city students are overweight by fourth grade, she wants the school system to make some not-so-sweet changes.

"We're in an obesity epidemic," says Kadija, a nutrition coach and mother of two elementary school aged daughters attending city schools, who unhappily recalls her first impression of the cafeterias.

"I noticed the free breakfast given out was some cereal or some sugary yogurt, animal crackers, and juice. I remember thinking, 'No, I think she'll eat breakfast at home.'"

Is sugar really Public Enemy #1 when it comes to healthy eating? That depends on whom you ask.

"Balance, variety and moderation with eating and physical activity are the keys to a healthy life," says Sandra Vazquez, head of the City School's nutrition program. "Sugar is not the bullet in the obesity problem, nor is removing it entirely the single solution."

So how much sugar is too much?

This year, City schools allow 30 percent of calories to come from sugar. That's less than the weight permitted by federal standard...

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Smile! Mugshot mag flying off shelves

Getting arrested has never been something to boast about, and thanks to a new weekly publication, it may have gotten even more embarrassing.

Launched June 1, Crime Times offers page after page of mugshots of offenders booked on crimes ranging from disorderly conduct to first-degree murder. At a time when most local publications are free, this tabloid– distributed across Charlottesville and surrounding counties– sells for $1, and yet it's flying off the shelves.

"We asked for 10 the first week," says Mike Brown, owner of Brown's convenience store on Avon Street (formerly Stoney's Grocery). Now, Brown says, he sells 100 copies within days of delivery and calls it "our best-selling publication."

Over on Market Street, it's the same story at the Lucky 7. "We get a big stack of them, and they're gone by the end of the week," says employee Tony Lechmanski.

Sure enough, says Crime Times publisher Wade McMurray, demand for the publication runs high– from an initial print run of 5,000 to 16,000 today. He expects that number to go even higher as he considers moving into the Fredericksburg and Fairfax markets.

"It's been going up by about 1,000 copies a week," says McMurray.

The publication is a family affair. First, 64-year-old McMurray, a truck driver now on disability, helped his brother launch a similar mugshot publication from Lynchburg to Roanoke. When that publication took off, McMurr...

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