Meet at the Overnight Parking Lot.
Ready to try backcountry camping? Spend 24 hours in nature learning backcountry skills and survival techniques with professional outdoor instructor Tim MacWelch. With Sky Meadows’ Backcountry Campground as the setting, participants will learn how to build a natural materials shelter, start a fire, cook over the open campfire, forage for food and medicinal plants, track animals and much more.
Meet at the overnight parking lot near the entrance of Sky Meadows State Park. Registration is $187/person (non-refundable) and includes the overnight camping fee and parking at Sky Meadows State Park. Bring water, dress in layers, and wear sturdy shoes. Course is held rain or shine and will be limited to 15 registrants (minimum 13 years of age). Find out the gear requirements and register for this course on the Advanced Survival Training website at advancedsurvivaltraining.com.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Mourning Dove
How is a juvenile dove different from other songbirds?
Last week, this little one was the unfortunate victim of a cat attack. Upon admission, this patient was having trouble breathing and multiple puncture wounds were found over the hips. They were in otherwise good condition and well hydrated—signs mom was taking great care of them prior to the attack.
Mourning Doves grow incredibly quickly, which is why renesting a healthy fledgling with their parents is so important when possible—they’re learning a lot and ready to be on their own within just a few short weeks.
This baby will have to grow up under human care due to the extent of their injuries. There are many babies of various species everywhere still, unable to fully fly or run, and are at great risk of predation in general. This is one of many important reasons that cats should be kept indoors.
Mourning Doves are not like other songbirds we often receive. They are in the family Columbiformes, which only includes pigeons and dove species.
They’re characterized by short, stocky bodies and the presence of a crop, which is a muscular pouch off of the esophagus that holds seeds, allowing them to digest slowly.
They also have a gizzard (“second stomach”) that helps grind up these hard seeds, with the assistance of small rocks (“grit”) stored in the organ.
Because this species almost exclusively eats seeds, babies are fed something called crop milk which is produced in the lining of adults’ crops and is regurgitated into the crops of babies.
In rehabilitative care, nestling doves are fed a slurry that mimics the nutritional composition of crop milk until they are ready for seeds.
Thankfully, after just one week, this dove has grown quickly and figured out how to use our “seed tube” to feed itself, allowing us to be more hands-off, which is always the goal in rehabilitation! (Click here to see it in action!)
We expect this bird to be ready for outdoor conditioning in another week or two and released shortly after that.
Looking for an easy way to help native wildlife? Become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.
UPDATE: McDonald Trial Conclusion — So Close and Yet a Month Away
(UPDATE: According to the 10th Western District of Virginia federal website, Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon has set aside the week of Monday, October 23, through Friday, October 27, for the criminal trial of former FR-WC EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald to resume and run to conclusion. As reported below, involved attorney expectations are that the trial could be turned over to the jury for deliberations on the 34 criminal indictments the defendant faces within two to three days once the trial resumes. The prosecution will call its 57th and final witness when the trial is reconvened. The defense is then anticipated to only call one or two witnesses before resting and heading the trial into closing arguments.)
After a second week (Sept. 19 to 22) and an additional day, Monday, September 25, lost to the “unexpected health issue” or “unexpected circumstance” referenced at a motions hearing last week, the federal criminal prosecution of former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Director Jennifer McDonald was again put on hold on Tuesday, September 26. And with the defendant again the only principal absent at the defense or prosecution tables, and no court official and none of the 15 jurors and alternates missing, the smart money “in Vegas” or at Charles Town’s Hollywood Casino is on McDonald as the focal point of that unexpected “health issue” or “circumstance.” In fact, it might be recalled that in the wake of one of her arrests, while her prosecution was initially at the state level, McDonald had to be transported from jail to a hospital for medical care, believed to be heart rate or blood pressure related.
In fact, during an 8:30 a.m. motions hearing, defense counsel forwarded a motion for a mistrial due to the repeated delays and uncertainty on a time frame moving forward at trial. Lead prosecuting attorney Sean Welsh countered the mistrial argument, citing case histories and circumstances of longer delays in which mistrial motions were denied. Welsh also told the court he didn’t feel the defense had “proved anything beyond speculation” to justify a mistrial, including any “cumulative” negative impact on jurors from delays.
After the hearing was closed to the media or the public several times to let personal variables of involved parties not be made public, Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon posed the alternative of “briefly suspending the trial” and resuming it as an alternative to a mistrial. Dillon said she would take the defense mistrial motion “under advisement.” However, the effort to pin down a coming week in which to continue the trial, which appears to currently be delayed for an unknown amount of time, seemed to indicate the judge preferred the alternative to declare a mistrial.
Prosecutor Welsh pointed out how close the trial likely is to being completed and handed over to the jury for deliberation. He noted the prosecution team had called 56 witnesses to the stand, with just one remaining to be called. He forecast that it now seemed the defense would call only one witness, with closing arguments possibly coming within two days. The defense witness list has been cited at two, with a third potentially to be added. The defendant is not anticipated to take the stand.
The initial motions hearing convened at 8:30 a.m. was recessed at 9:34 a.m. until 11 a.m. when the jury was instructed to report to court Tuesday. Reconvened at 11 a.m., the hearing was again closed for a time as the court queried jurors on their prospective plans for the coming weeks under consideration for restarting the trial without the current day-to-day uncertainty it would proceed. A time frame of two to six weeks was cited for reconvening the trial if a decision to suspend was reached. However, the prosecution wondered if additional relevant information might not be helpful in pinning down how soon a restart might be feasible. When Welsh proposed such input, possibly by subpoena, as early as the following day, Judge Dillon called that scenario “highly unlikely.” The court adjourned at 11:30 a.m. with no clear path forward apparent.
So, a decision on how this trial will proceed and when, and possibly even if it will proceed, is currently on hold pending additional information to be received by the court. And apparently, as noted in the above “Update” that information was received late Tuesday afternoon, September 26, with the trial now poised to resume on Monday, October 23, at 8:30 a.m.
As previously reported, after inheriting the case from two state prosecutors’ offices on August 25, 2021, a federal grand jury handed down 34 federal criminal indictments on a variety of charges, including bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft against the former FR-WC EDA executive director.
Forum Reaction: Real Issues Plaguing our Community, Part 1
While I was unable to attend the Chamber of Commerce’s sponsored candidate forum due to travel issues, I was hoping to catch a glimmer of hope in the recorded session, watching the candidates read their prepared speeches without offering any potential solutions to the problems, both perceived and real. For this installment of the Real Issues Plaguing Our Community, I want to focus on Shenandoah District Candidate for Board of Supervisors John Stanmeyer.
Being relatively fresh off the Board of the “re-constituted” EDA, I am astonished that Stanmeyer, or any other candidate for that matter, is campaigning under the guise of “ensuring that EDA-like fraud never happens again.” Well, I hate to tell Candidate Stanmeyer that he missed that ship years ago, and statements like this are no better than the typical campaign rhetoric of “wanting to improve County-Town relations” that candidates use as a crutch when they have no other platform or offer of solutions to the immediate issues.
If Stanmeyer is serious about his candidacy, I would like to know his solution to how he is going to address the $20-million-dollar deficit that both the county and town governments are morally obligated to because of the co-overseen fraudulent activity. There is no shortage of understanding that the EDA’s liabilities far outweigh the value of any assets it possesses. But how are you going to bridge the political divide, navigate the legal intricacies, and bring these issues to closure? There is a high probability that this deficit will land on the backs of the taxpayers, both town and county. How is this going to be reconciled? This is a real issue plaguing our community.
As you are an economist by education, I would love to understand your calculus on the matter.
Gregory A. Harold
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Remembering Matthew Shepard: Selah Theatre Project Revives “THE LARAMIE PROJECT”
A Tribute to Acceptance, Love, and the Confrontation of Hate.
Twenty-five years have passed since the tragic death of Matthew Shepard, a poignant moment in American history that sparked nationwide discussions on love, hate, and acceptance. In commemoration of this somber anniversary, the Selah Theatre Project collaborates with the AIDS Response Effort to present THE LARAMIE PROJECT. Directed by the talented LaTasha Do’zia, this play offers an intimate glimpse into the soul of Laramie, based on more than 200 heart-wrenching interviews the Tectonic Theater Project team conducted in the wake of Shepard’s demise.
Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project captured the voice of Laramie’s residents in THE LARAMIE PROJECT, revealing the transformation of an entire town coming face to face with its own reflections on bigotry and compassion. This revival, under the careful direction of Do’zia and co-director Sarah Millard, assembles a diverse ensemble of 14 actors. Spanning teens to adults and hailing from various corners of the Shenandoah Valley, the cast brings authenticity and depth to the narrative.
Notable performances are expected from Aidan Carnell, Naomi Greenwalt, Eric Ibarra, and Danielle Juratovac, among others, ensuring that the audience will be treated to a rich tableau of emotions and perspectives.
Selah Theatre Project has a history with THE LARAMIE PROJECT, marking this their third presentation. The play’s enduring significance isn’t lost on Do’zia, who passionately remarked, “The story continues to be relevant. I believe every possible perspective is represented in this theatrical work. It is immersive and promotes great conversation about human kindness.”
THE LARAMIE PROJECT opens its curtains on October 13, 2023, and runs for three consecutive weekends until October 29. With tickets priced at $15, the play promises to be accessible to a broad audience. An opening night reception will be held on October 13th, and an enlightening Q&A session with the AIDS Response Effort team is scheduled for October 21st.
For those interested in being part of this significant event, tickets can be procured from the Selah Theatre Project’s website or by calling their booking hotline at 540-684-5464
In an era where discussions about acceptance, identity, and love are as pertinent as ever, THE LARAMIE PROJECT remains a touching beacon of hope and a sobering reminder of past tragedies. The Selah Theatre Project’s revival promises to be a poignant tribute to Matthew Shepard and an encouragement for dialogue and understanding.
Lone Star Tick Bite: A Hidden Allergy Menace in America
CDC Studies Unearth Surging Numbers of Alpha-gal Syndrome Cases
In a startling revelation that might have you inspecting your next insect bite more closely, new research indicates that the previously underestimated Alpha-gal syndrome, a meat allergy originating from lone star tick bites, might be more widespread in America than previously believed.
The lone star tick, whose bite has been associated with Alpha-gal syndrome, has turned out to be a more significant public health concern than earlier considered. According to recent studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Alpha-gal syndrome may currently affect close to 450,000 Americans. Alarmingly, a large number of these cases potentially remain undiagnosed.
The alpha-gal syndrome manifests after consuming mammalian meat products. Its symptoms range from relatively mild reactions like hives to more severe responses, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. This means that a steak dinner could unexpectedly turn into an hours-long ordeal for those affected, drastically changing their dietary habits and lifestyles.
As highlighted by the New York Times, the complexity of this syndrome is further compounded by the fact that it has no known cure. While allergists and researchers are working to understand the full spectrum of the tick’s effects, early detection, and lifestyle adjustments remain the primary mode of managing the condition. The syndrome’s insidious nature, coupled with a lack of widespread understanding, means that countless individuals might be suffering without even realizing the root cause of their symptoms. Moreover, with climate changes and shifting habitats, the range of the lone star tick is expanding, potentially putting more individuals at risk.
While the world grapples with numerous health concerns, the revelations about Alpha-gal syndrome highlight the importance of staying informed about lesser-known yet impactful health threats. Public health initiatives, guided by recent data, should prioritize awareness campaigns about the risks associated with lone star tick bites and the subsequent allergy. In the meantime, individuals are urged to be cautious during outdoor activities, utilize tick repellents, and promptly seek medical advice if unusual allergic reactions manifest after meat consumption.
2023 Elections Bring New Scrutiny of Virginia’s ‘Sore Loser’ Rule
Virginia’s so-called “sore loser” law is supposed to ensure that when a candidate is defeated in a Republican or Democratic primary, they can’t drop their party affiliation and appear on the general election ballot next to the person who beat them.
As the state’s closely watched election season, which will determine control of all 140 seats in the General Assembly, ramps up, the letter and spirit of that law are being tested. A handful of unsuccessful primary candidates have tried to keep their campaigns alive after defeat while attacking their own parties for allegedly corrupting the process.
Makya Little, a Northern Virginia House of Delegates candidate who narrowly lost a Democratic primary in June, went as far as filing a lawsuit that seeks to have her primary loss overturned. The suit, which has not yet been resolved in Richmond City Circuit Court, also seeks to have Little’s name appear on ballots as an independent candidate despite the fact that she, like all primary candidates, signed a form acknowledging her name couldn’t be on the ballot if she lost her primary.
In occasionally blunt language, attorneys representing state election officials argued Little’s case should be thrown out because she and her supporters are “trying to convert their disappointment into a lawsuit.”
“This case is about an attempt by a defeated politician to overturn the results of an election,” wrote the state’s attorneys.
The state is also seeking to add Rozia Henson — the Democrat who defeated Little in the primary by just 49 votes — as a party to the lawsuit, saying the case has ramifications for him as the primary winner. Henson is the only candidate on the ballot in the heavily Democratic 19th House District, made up of parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties.
In an interview, Little acknowledged her attempts to appear on the ballot failed since the ballots were printed weeks ago, and early voting got underway last Friday. However, she said she intends to continue the lawsuit and keep arguing the state needs a better mechanism to resolve disputes over whether primaries were conducted fairly. Little now identifies as an independent but said she still supports many Democratic priorities.
“It’s disappointing that the party of inclusion can be so exclusionary,” Little said. “And what they call vetting is actually gatekeeping.”
Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, one of Virginia’s most prominent purveyors of unfounded election fraud claims, explored the idea of running a write-in campaign after losing a suburban Richmond primary battle against former state Sen. Glen Sturtevant. Chase told supporters in a Sept. 13 email she was dropping that plan because write-in campaigns involve “far too much work with little return.” She also floated the possibility of a statewide campaign next year without identifying a specific office.
In a more politically significant development, Matt Strickland, an anti-establishment conservative who sought the GOP nomination in a Fredericksburg-area Virginia Senate district, is encouraging supporters to write his name on their November ballots despite losing a June primary to Del. Tara Durant, R-Fredericksburg.
Durant is facing Democrat Joel Griffin and independent Monica Gary in a battleground district being heavily contested by both parties, and the prospect of Strickland drawing conservative votes away from Durant adds another complication for Republicans hoping to win full control of the legislature. Democrats currently have a 22-18 majority in the Senate.
Strickland did not respond to an emailed request for comment Tuesday. He discussed the write-in effort at length in a recent interview on the conservative John Fredericks Radio Show. When Fredericks pressed him for a response to accusations he’s jeopardizing Republicans’ chances in the district, Strickland said, “If a Democrat wins, so be it.”
“The only way that the Republican Party will change is we withhold our vote from them for winning these primaries via corruption,” said Strickland, who also accused Gov. Glenn Youngkin of supporting a “globalist agenda.” Youngkin endorsed Durant in the primary.
Republicans have downplayed Strickland’s impact on the race.
“I just don’t think there’s a whole lot of wind beneath their sails, so to speak,” Durant said Tuesday. “You take everything seriously, but you’ve got to focus on those who are on the ballot.”
Griffin, the Democrat who stands to benefit from a split GOP vote, took a different view of Strickland’s role as a potential spoiler.
“We’ve seen a number of voters who are frustrated with the lack of performance from Tara,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of people in the region that do support him.”
Virginia’s sore loser law only prohibits candidates from appearing on the ballot after losing a primary, but candidates can theoretically win if they can educate enough supporters about the need to look past the official list of candidates, fill in the write-in box, and spell the name (mostly) correctly. State Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, pulled off that feat in 2019 after paperwork errors left him off the ballot in his strongly Republican district, but he received a $500,000 donation from a Republican donor to fund the extraordinary outreach effort.
In court filings portraying Little’s lawsuit as legally meritless, attorneys for the state emphasized that Little could technically still win as a write-in candidate under Virginia’s system.
The sore loser law Little is targeting serves a valid democratic purpose, the state argued, by preventing party infighting, minimizing voter confusion, and ensuring that primary elections don’t become “meaningless.” Little’s allegations that various Democratic officials tilted the primary against her, the state’s filing contends, have nothing to do with official election functions and the laws that govern them.
“In a nutshell, plaintiffs complain that some Democrats did not treat Ms. Little fairly,” the state’s filing says. “But such is the stuff of politics. Some of it may not be nice, but the plaintiff fails to show why any of it is illegal.”
Little has been claimed. Democratic leaders in Prince William and Fairfax counties manipulated the primary process by allowing party officials to be involved with other candidates’ campaigns, deleting her social media posts from party pages, canceling a “bilingual voter drive,” and steering endorsements to her opponent.
Little, who says she’s representing herself in the lawsuit because no lawyers would take the case, insisted her post-primary efforts are about standing up for the voters in her district.
“It’s bigger than just my campaign. It’s bigger than just this one race. It’s bigger than just this one election cycle,” she said. “This has become a pattern and practice of the parties to control who has access to the ballot.”
The 2023 primary season has also drawn attention to a possible loophole in the sore loser law.
In a local race in Roanoke County, a candidate dropped out of a Republican contest just days before the June 20 primaries but then filed to run as an independent. That candidate, Tom McCracken, also abandoned his independent run last month, according to WDBJ7.
In a Sept. 14 advisory opinion on a hypothetical scenario that matches what happened in Roanoke County, Attorney General Jason Miyares said that, as written, the law allows primary candidates to avoid triggering the sore loser restriction by dropping out of a primary at the last minute. Even if it occurs after voting has started with the candidate’s name printed on primary ballots, a formal withdrawal from the race doesn’t count as being “defeated” in the primary, Miyares wrote.
Theoretically, Miyares opined, a primary candidate could evade the sore loser law by dropping out “at any point prior to the closing of the polls on the day of the primary election.”
Staff reporter Charlie Paullin contributed to this report.
by Graham Moomaw, Virginia Mercury
Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.