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The war in Ukraine: Questions and answers

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WASHINGTON – It’s been three weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, causing countless deaths and widespread destruction and generating the greatest refugee flow in Europe since World War II.
Russia’s unprovoked attack unified Europe and NATO and prompted unprecedented sanctions aimed at crippling the Russian economy and forcing Vladimir Putin to the negotiating table.
Here are some questions and answers about the conflict.

When did the war start?
On the morning of Feb. 24, while the United Nations Security Council was holding an emergency session, Russian President Vladimir Putin released a pre-recorded video announcing a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

He had declared war without saying the words. Artillery barrages and airstrikes rained on Ukraine as Russian soldiers and equipment began to move across the border from the north, east and south.

Russia had been assembling forces on the Ukrainian border since early December 2021.


But this is only the latest and most drastic escalation in a conflict, overlooked by most of the world, that has been ongoing since 2014.

In the early months of that year, the Ukrainian people ousted then-President Victor Yanukovych after he unilaterally decided to create closer ties with Russia instead of signing a treaty with the
European Union that the parliament had overwhelmingly supported.

Yanukovych fled Ukraine during what is called the Maidan Revolution. Russia viewed the revolution as an illegal coup and took the opportunity to annex the Crimean Peninsula and start a proxy war in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces of Ukraine.

The fighting in the two provinces between the Ukrainian Army and Russian-backed separatists came to be known as the Donbas War, a relatively low-level conflict that nevertheless has resulted in the deaths of an estimated 14,000 people.

What is Russia and Ukraine’s history?
Ukraine and Russia have a long, intertwined history. Many Ukrainian families have blood relatives in Russia and vice versa. The two peoples share religious beliefs and cultural traditions.

Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city, was the founding seat of Kievan Rus’ from the 9th to the 13th century – the predecessor of the Russian tsarist empire.

In its later history, Ukraine was alternately part of the Russian Empire, an independent country and then part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Ukraine declared itself an independent country in August of 1991. The Soviet Union collapsed in December of that same year. The Russian Federation, the successor to the Soviet Union, has viewed Ukraine as within its sphere of influence ever since.

What is NATO?
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a political and military alliance among 30 European and North American countries.

It was founded in 1949 to counter the expanding influence of the Soviet Union after the end of World War II. After the fall of the USSR, former Warsaw Pact states such as Poland and Hungary joined NATO, thus shrinking the Russian sphere of influence.

Article 5 of the NATO treaty states that an attack on one member country is to be treated as an attack on every member country, binding every signatory to come to the defense of the attacked. This includes responses ranging from conventional military forces up to the use of nuclear weapons.

President Joe Biden has promised to “defend every inch” of NATO territory should Russia expand the scope of the conflict. He has also repeatedly stated that neither the United States nor NATO will send soldiers to fight on Ukraine’s behalf.

Three NATO members – the United States, the United Kingdom and France – are recognized nuclear weapon states.

Is Ukraine a NATO member state?
Ukraine is not a NATO member state but has been forging stronger ties with the organization since the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea and the beginning of the Donbas War.

United States special forces and military units of other NATO members have trained the Ukrainian Army.

A 2014 poll showed that nearly 50% of the Ukrainian public supported joining NATO. That percentage jumped up to about 69% in a 2020 poll. At the same time, Ukraine’s president began talks with NATO to join the alliance.

The expansion of NATO influence is one of the reasons Putin cited as justification for the invasion of Ukraine.

In the early days of the invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked NATO to grant emergency membership to his country. On March 15, he announced Ukraine will no longer seek NATO membership.

However, Zelenskyy on Feb. 28 signed the application for Ukraine to become an European Union member state. An overwhelming majority of EU members voted to advance Ukraine’s application, but full integration into the EU will take some time.

What has been the international response to the invasion?
The international response has largely followed the United States’ lead. According to a March 11 White House statement, over 30 countries have levied sanctions against Russia, including Switzerland, which traditionally maintained neutrality in international conflicts.

Germany halted the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea gas pipeline, which would have doubled the inflow of Russian gas into the country.

Collectively, the international community cut key Russian banks off from the SWIFT system, preventing those entities from making or receiving international payments.

The United States and other NATO countries have also been providing arms to Ukraine in the form of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons.

Several NATO countries have shown interest in expanding their own military capabilities as they aid Ukraine. Both Germany and Poland have signed deals to buy American F-35 fighter jets and in mid-February the State Department approved a contract for Poland to buy 250 Abrams tanks.

The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to pass a non-binding resolution to condemn Russia’s invasion.

What effects are the sanctions having?
Since the first round of sanctions was imposed, the Russian ruble has severely depreciated in value. One U.S. dollar was worth the equivalent of about 120 rubles as of March 15.
Russia’s stock exchange has remained closed since the start of the invasion.

An International Monetary Fund official said that Russia defaulting on its sovereign debt is no longer “improbable.”

The sanctions target Putin and the oligarchs closest to him. Their assets, like private yacht and condo penthouses, are being seized and they are unable to leave Russia as all Russian planes have been banned from U.S. and EU airspace.

Private companies and athletic organizations have been moving their businesses out of Russia.

The Formula 1 racing championship canceled its Sochi Grand Prix. Numerous global firms, including McDonalds, Exxon, Ford Motor Co., Airbnb, Disney and Ikea, have suspended business in Russia.

What countries support Russia?
Despite the near-universal international condemnation of Russia, a handful of countries have stood behind Russia. Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea and Syria all voted against the UN resolution.

Belarus allowed Russian forces to attack Ukraine from its territory.

China has remained on the sidelines of this conflict, walking a tightrope between the United States and Russia. While China has yet to publicly criticize Russia, it has called for hostilities to cease and peace talks to begin.

What is the status of the war?
It has been 20 days since the beginning of the Russian invasion and Ukraine has been holding its own. The Russian advance has stalled in many places, according to U.S. and international military and intelligence officials.

The quick lightning strikes Russian forces attempted in the early days of the war to either seize or destroy key objectives largely failed. The Russians still have not gained air superiority.

The anti-armor and anti-air missiles supplied to Ukraine by NATO countries have been extremely effective.

The exact number of Russian losses is hard to say with any accuracy, as reports vary wildly. The latest estimates from U.S. officials report Russia has lost up to 6,000 soldiers. As of March 16, Kyiv estimates over 13,800 Russian soldiers have been killed. And 430 tanks and 84 planes have been disabled. Little information has been published about Ukrainian losses.

The Russian military has been plagued by logistical, supply and strategic issues, according to western military analysts.

Undamaged Russian tanks have been found abandoned in fields because they ran out of fuel. Russian soldiers have reportedly been begging for food from Ukrainians. A picture of a Russian ration pack showed it had expired in 2015.

The Russians have seemingly changed their strategy from achieving military objectives to attempting to force submission through the general destruction of civilian infrastructure.

Residential neighborhoods, hospitals and utility providers have been targeted with weapons like cluster bombs – a type of munition whose use has been deemed a war crime because of their potential to cause widespread and indiscriminate casualties.

Who is Russia sending to fight?
Before the invasion began, the United States estimated Russia had amassed up to 190,000 soldiers on the Ukrainian border, along with tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, anti-aircraft defenses and all the necessary logistical support, including fuel and blood for field hospitals.

Since the invasion began, videos of captured Russian soldiers have been surfacing on social media. While unverified, the individual videos do share similar narratives.

The soldiers are often young men who claim to be conscripts. Many say they were told they were on training missions and weren’t told they were being sent to fight in Ukraine. Others say they were told the Ukrainians wanted the Russians to “liberate” them and expected to be welcomed with open arms.

The Russian government previously said there were no conscripts fighting in Ukraine. On March 9, the Kremlin acknowledged there were conscripts in Ukraine.

U.S. officials have recently said that Russia is recruiting mercenaries from countries like Syria and Libya. Estimates range up to 40,000 fighters.

What do Russian citizens think about the war?
Tens of thousands of Russian citizens have been protesting the war since its beginning in every major Russian city and around the world. Citizens, athletes and even a Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin have called for an end to the war.

The protests have been so widespread that Putin felt the need to criminalize repeated protesting and police have been diligently enforcing the law.

Videos of police in full riot gear dragging away protesters have plastered social media feeds. A 77-year-old woman who lived through the siege of Leningrad during the second world war was arrested for protesting the war.

Nearly all independent media in Russia has been shut down and social media such as Facebook and Twitter have been blocked by Russian authorities.

Who is fighting for Ukraine?
The Ukrainian regular Army numbered around 200,000 active personnel in 2016, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. That made it the second largest army in Europe at the time, with Russia wielding the largest number of conventional forces.

At the time, the Ukrainian Army had been fighting Russian-backed separatists for two years and had undertaken a modernization program to bring its equipment in line with NATO standards by 2020.

An accurate count of the current number of personnel in the Ukrainian armed forces is hard to come by.

In the months leading up to the invasion, thousands of civilians enlisted in the army and even more received training in basic weapons handling. Videos of civilians making Molotov cocktails and home-brewed napalm have surfaced on social media.

In late February, Ukraine announced that males aged 18 to 60 would not be permitted to leave the country as long as martial law remained in effect.
Zelenskyy welcomed foreign nationals to fight for his country. According to Kyiv, over 20,000 personnel have enlisted in the Ukrainian Foreign Legion. These numbers have yet to be independently verified.

What are Ukrainian civilians doing?
Apart from those who have taken up arms, many Ukrainian civilians have sought shelter in their home cities.

In 2020, Ukraine had an estimated population of 44 million. On March 15, the International Organization for Migration – a UN agency – said more than 3 million people had fled the conflict to neighboring countries. This number includes foreign nationals living in Ukraine.

The UN Human Rights Office said on March 15 that at least 726 Ukrainian civilians have been confirmed dead and 1,174 have been injured. Other estimates are higher.

What is a NATO no-fly zone?
Zelenskyy asked NATO in early March to impose a no-fly zone over Ukrainian airspace. Since then it has become a popular talking point for media outlets and politicians.

Biden and other NATO leaders have repeatedly stated that NATO will not implement a no-fly zone, stating that it would cause an escalation in tensions between Russia and the alliance and a direct military confrontation could lead to World War III.

A no-fly zone means the military effectively closes an airspace with the threat of or use of force.

A NATO no-fly zone over Ukraine would mean Russian war planes would not be allowed to fly over Ukraine and thus prevented from conducting air strikes on military and civilian targets.

By RYAN WHITE
Capital News Service

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Most approve of legalized sports wagering, but concerns over college games remain

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When Tom McMillen discusses college sports and legalized gambling, he’s straightforward about his concern. He fears a game-fixing scandal that would shake the confidence of fans across the country.

 

“I would say 99 percent of the sports-betting scandals that have occurred had been in the college market,” said McMillen, a former U.S. Congressman and basketball All American at the University of Maryland.

Two of the most high-profile betting scandals in sports history have occurred at the college level. Boston College’s basketball program was ensnared in point-shaving controversy in the 1978-1979 season. In the 1950-51 season, City College of New York (CCNY) and at least six other schools were involved in a notorious incident involving players being paid to throw games.

With legal betting now an option for most fans, “I think there’s just that general fear that college kids could be exploited in this environment,” said McMillen, now CEO of LEAD1, an organization that represents athletic directors and programs of the Football Bowl Subdivision,


Sports fans generally welcome sports betting, according to a recent poll conducted by the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, in collaboration with the university’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement and The Washington Post.

However, a survey of 1,503 people found less support for betting on college sports compared to betting on professional sports. In the Povich Center-CDCE-Post survey, 66% of respondents approved of legalized betting on professional sports. Just 55% supported legal betting on college sports.

 

Ryan Ridgeway, a 30-year-old warehouse worker from Laurel, Maryland, supports betting on professional sports but is wary about college sports because of the varying player finances.

“At the professional level, they’re already getting paid millions of dollars, I feel like they’d be less likely to throw a game,” he said. “Since [college athletes aren’t] getting paid millions of dollars, they have more of an incentive to throw a game.”

Richael Faithful, a consultant who lives in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in Washington, DC., also expressed reservations.

“My concerns there are that betting will continue to influence how college officials and the college regulatory bodies treat student-athletes,” they said.

Of the 30 states and D.C. that have passed legalized sports betting laws, 18 have some level of restriction on gambling on college sports. Virginia does not permit in-state betting on college sports. To place a bet on the University of Virginia or Virginia Tech requires crossing a state line into Maryland or West Virginia, for instance. In Maryland, wagering on both college and pro sports is permitted is only permitted at retail locations.

 

The ubiquity of mobile betting is a concern of gambling-addiction experts. Dr. Deborah Haskins, the President of the Maryland Council on Problem Gambling, said that being able to place bets on a cell phone lowers the barriers for gamblers, particularly those prone to compulsive behavior.

“If they’re betting electronically, they can stay in the game longer,” she said. “You’re seeing more people who are experiencing negative harms from gambling because now they can literally stay in the game 24/7.

“Gambling beyond your means economically … you’re spending more and more beyond what your budget is,” she said, adding that compulsive gamblers sometimes resort to drastic measures like using mortgage and rent money for gambling,” Haskins added.

In the Povich Center-CDCE-Post poll, concerns about sports gambling among younger fans was evident. Sixty-eight percent of respondents supported a minimum betting age of 21, compared to just 32% that supported a minimum age of 18.

 

Twenty-four states set their minimum gambling age to 21, with six states and Washington D.C. dropping it to 18. In Virginia and Maryland, the minimum age to gamble is 21.

In the poll, 20% of sports fans said they had bet on pro sports in the past five years compared to 17% of all respondents, Regarding college sports, only eleven percent of sports fans said they had bet in the last five years compared to nine percent of all respondents.

By Varun Shankar
The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism

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Extraordinary Registered Nurse, Kari Schwind, recognized at Fauquier Health as DAISY Award Winner

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Nurses at Fauquier Health continue to be honored with The DAISY Team Award For Extraordinary Nurses. The DAISY award is part of the DAISY Foundation’s program to recognize the super-human efforts nurses perform every day.

Kari Schwind, RN, is seen here with Dr. Christine Hart Kress, CNO, after being nominated as Quarter 2 DAISY Award Winner in 2022.

We are proud to announce that the second quarter DAISY Team award recipient for 2022 is Registered Nurse (RN), Kari Schwind. Kari works in Outpatient Special Procedures department as an Interventional Radiology RN. She received several strong nominations from her patients. Her nominations showcased the level of dedication and compassion she provides to her patients.

One nomination from a patient commented, “Kari embraced me with her warming smile. She was so caring and compassionate and made me feel comfortable and relaxed. She touched my heart by sharing her very own private story that day when I was so scared and nervous of what was to come next.” The patient went on to comment that Kari was the best registered nurse they ever had.


Another nomination that Kari received was a true testament to her ability to care for our patients. The patient commented on how Kari exceeded expectations, “[Kari] transmits confidence and professionalism in all she does, but it was her kind heart and dedication to her patients on that day that she was able to transform a potentially negative situation (my nervousness and anxiety) into the possible best outcome.”

Kari Schwind, RN, DAISY Award winner for Quarter 2, 2022 at Fauquier Health, had the opportunity to sign the banner that will hang permanently in the hospital for all to see.

During the surprise presentation ceremony, the hallway in the Outpatient Special Procedures department was lined with fellow team members and leadership who came to applaud Kari and congratulate her.

The not-for-profit DAISY Foundation is based in Glen Ellen, CA, and was established by family members in memory of J. Patrick Barnes. Patrick died at the age of 33 in late 1999 from complications of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), a little known but not uncommon auto-immune disease. The care Patrick and his family received from nurses while he was ill inspired this unique means of thanking nurses for making a profound difference in the lives of their patients and patient families.

Kari Schwind, RN, celebrates with fellow team members to accept her winning nominations.

The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses has been adopted by healthcare facilities around the world to celebrate nurses for their extraordinary care and compassion. The DAISY Team Award is for nurse-led teams of two or more who come together to solve a specific situation by going above and beyond. Nursing teams may be nominated by patients, families, and colleagues, and they are chosen by a committee of nurses at Fauquier Health to receive The DAISY Team Award. The DAISY Team Award is presented by Nursing Leadership at a surprise presentation. The DAISY Award winner receives a certificate commending them for being an “Extraordinary Nurse.” The certificate reads: “In deep appreciation of all you do, who you are and the incredibly meaningful difference your teamwork makes in the lives of so many people.”  The DAISY Award winner also receives a specially engraved plaque engraved with the name of the Team.

To honor these special nurses at Fauquier Health, a banner has been hung in the hallway for all to see. Each DAISY Nurse will have the opportunity to sign the banner recognizing them for their commitment and dedication. For a complete listing of healthcare organizations currently running the program, please go to DAISYfoundation.org.

Kari Schwind, RN, proudly held up her banner. Accompanying her, from left to right, was, Sean Thomson (CFO), Kevin Sale (COO), Christine Hart Kress (CNO), Rich Pinson (Director of Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology Services), and Anthony Young (interim-CEO).

The DAISY Award and DAISY Team Award are initiatives of The DAISY Foundation in service to the nursing profession.  Additionally, DAISY offers J. Patrick Barnes Grants for Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice Projects, The DAISY Faculty Award to honor inspiring faculty members in schools and colleges of nursing, and The DAISY in Training Award for nursing students. More information is available at DAISYfoundation.org.

About Fauquier Health

Fauquier Health is a community health system dedicated to high-quality, patient-centered care in a unique environment that considers the multiple facets of healing and respects the individuality of each and every patient. Located at 500 Hospital Drive in Warrenton, Virginia, Fauquier Health serves the residents of Fauquier and several surrounding counties. It comprises: Fauquier Hospital, a fully-accredited, 97-bed hospital; Fauquier Health Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a 113-bed long-term care and rehabilitation facility; the Villa at Suffield Meadows, an assisted living facility; the Wound Health Center and a medically supervised Wellness Center offering health and wellness programs.  Fauquier Health also operates nine physician’s offices, including primary care and specialties. More information on Fauquier Health is available online at FauquierHealth.org or by calling 540-316-5000.

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Public Advised to Avoid Contact with Algal Mats in sections of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River near Town of Strasburg, VA

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An Algal Mat Alert has been issued for the North Fork Shenandoah River for the Town of Strasburg. The alert area begins above the town at approximately Route 644 (Deep Hollow Lane), to include the Deer Rapids Road Bridge, to below the town at approximately Route 611 (Long Meadow Road), for a total of approximately 11.5 miles. Potentially toxic algae mats could be widespread or patchy in areas within this vicinity. Recreational use may continue providing those using the waterway take caution to avoid contact with the algae mats. If mats appear unavoidable in an area, the public should discontinue recreational activities there.

Algal Mat Alert signs have been posted near the boat ramp at Deer Rapids and at public access points along the North Fork Shenandoah River in Strasburg. The area of the river where algal mats have been investigated can be seen on the interactive Harmful Algal Bloom Map.

While this alert applies to this particular area, everyone is reminded to avoid areas in any natural waterway that have algal mats or discolored, scummy water. People should also avoid allowing their pets to swim in areas where mat material is observed. Contact with these mats may cause skin rash and gastrointestinal illnesses, such as upset stomach, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. If mats are producing toxins, consumption of mats could be fatal to dogs and other animals when ingested. Sadly, animal deaths may occur suddenly following exposure. Humans should never consume water or material from a natural waterbody because this water is not treated water and is not suitable for consumption.

Although cyanotoxins were either below or just above detection in water samples tested from these locations, it is important to remember that toxin concentrations within the mats may be much more highly concentrated than those that may be in the water column. Avoiding contact with mats should avoid the release of toxins to the water, if mats are producing them.


VDH has observed no evidence of impacts to drinking water at this time. The Office of Drinking Water is working with drinking water utilities to protect drinking water sources.

The North Fork of the Shenandoah River is a popular local recreation area for boating, swimming and fishing. Please look for Algal Mat Alert signs posted along the river shoreline at public access points and observe the advisory precautions. Recreational uses may continue provided proper caution to avoid mats is observed. It is best to ensure pets, livestock and horses do not have access to this section of the river when mats are present.

Algae blooms can occur when warm water and nutrients combine to make conditions favorable for algae growth. Most algae species are harmless, however, some species may produce irritating compounds or toxins. Avoid discolored water, scums or mat material that are green or bluish-green because they are more likely to contain toxins.

To prevent illness, people should:

  • Avoid contact with mats which may be present in North Fork Shenandoah River above and below the Town of Strasburg.
  • If mats are unavoidable, do not attempt to recreate in the waterbody.
  • WHEN IN DOUBT, KEEP PEOPLE AND PETS OUT! Use your best judgment before recreating in natural waterbodies.
  • Do not allow children or pets to drink from natural bodies of water or consume material in the water or along the shoreline.
  • Keep small children, pets, and livestock out of the areas experiencing an Algal Mat Alert. They do not understand the risks associated with mats and may drink river water or consume mats which could cause illness.
  • If you or your animals experience symptoms after swimming in or near the area under an Algal Mat Alert, seek medical/veterinarian care. You may also contact your local poison control center.
  • Additional resources for pet owners and veterinarians are available from the CDC at www.cdc.gov/habs
  • To ensure fish filets are safe to eat, properly clean fish by removing skin, discarding all internal organs, and cooking fish to the proper temperature.
  • To view the Algal Mat Alert area, view the HAB Map online or the Algal Mat Status Report for the North Fork Shenandoah River 8.5.22.
  • To report an algae bloom or fish kill, use the online report form.
  • If you suspect you or your animal experienced health-related effects following exposure to a bloom, contact the Virginia Harmful Algal Bloom Hotline at 1-888-238-6154. Please do not call this number for updates on sampling or status reports.

The Virginia Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force, which includes the Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and the Old Dominion University Phytoplankton Analysis Lab, will continue to monitor mats in the river. In general, Algal Mat Alerts may be lifted following two consecutive observations where mats are not widespread and unavoidable and preferably, as resources allow, when water column cell counts and toxin concentrations are below safe swimming thresholds. An Algal Mat Alert may also be lifted or maintained at the discretion of the health department. For example, after one test an advisory may be lifted if results are within safe levels for swimming if other information indicates exposure or human health risk is low.

For more information about harmful algae blooms, Algal Mat Advisories and Recreational Water Advisories visit www.SwimHealthyVA.com.

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17-year-old charged with ‘Driving Under the Influence’ in fatal Rockingham County two-vehicle collision – speed also cited as factor in ongoing investigation

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According to Virginia State Police (VSP) a 17-year-old driver has been charged with “Driving Under the Influence” in the death of a 71-year-old driver in a mid-evening two-vehicle collision Wednesday, August 3, in Rockingham County. According to the VSP press release on the accident the northbound 2008 BMW driven by the unidentified 17-year-old minor male was “traveling at a high rate of speed” when it and a 1997 Mercury Villager attempting to make a left turn onto Route 42 after stopping at a westbound stop sign on Route 765, collided. There was one passenger in each vehicle, another 17-year-old male in the BMW, and a 78-year-old female in the Mercury. The investigation into the accident continues with additional charges being a possibility.

Both occupants of the Mercury, driver Gerald L. Will (71) of Hinton, Va., and Jean E. Will (78) also of Hinton, were transported from the scene with life-threatening injuries. The State Police Press Release from the desk of VSP Public Information Officer Sgt. Brent Coffey reported that the two involved 17-year-olds suffered “minor injuries” and were also transported from the scene for treatment. Ms. Will was transported to the UVA Medical Center, the other three involved parties to the Sentara RMH Medical Center. VSP reported that all four involved people were wearing seatbelts when the accident occurred.

Below is the VSP release on the fatal collision in its entirety:

Virginia State Police Trooper J. Joseph is investigating a two-vehicle fatal crash in Rockingham County. The crash occurred Wednesday, (August 3) at 9:25 p.m. at the intersection of Route 42 (Harpine Hwy) and Route 765 (Buttermilk Creek Rd).


A 1997 Mercury Villager was traveling west on Route 765 when it stopped at a stop sign. As the Mercury attempted a left turn onto Route 42 it collided with a northbound 2008 BMW 328I. The BMW was traveling at a high rate of speed.

The driver of the Mercury, Gerald L. Will, 71, of Hinton, Va., suffered life-threatening injuries due to the crash and was transported to Sentara RMH Medical Center, where he later succumbed to his injuries. He was wearing a seatbelt.

A passenger in the Mercury, Jean E. Will, 78, of Hinton, Va., suffered life-threatening injuries due to the crash and was transported to UVA Medical Center for treatment. She was wearing a seatbelt.

The driver of the BMW, a 17-year-old male, of Harrisonburg, Va., suffered minor injuries due to the crash and was transported to Sentara RMH Medical Center for treatment. The male was wearing a seatbelt.

A passenger in the BMW, a 17 year-old male, of Rockingham, Va., suffered minor injuries and was transported to Sentara RMH Medical Center for treatment. He was wearing a seatbelt.

The driver of the BMW was charged with driving under the influence.

The crash remains under investigation.

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Laurel Ridge breaks ground on skilled trades center on Fauquier Campus

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Laurel Ridge Community College opened a new chapter Tuesday when it ceremonially broke ground on the Fauquier Campus Center for Skilled Trades.

The 8,000-square-foot facility will provide space specifically designed for plumbing, electrical, HVAC, heavy equipment operator, carpentry and welding programs. It will also open the door for trades academy partnerships with Fauquier County and Rappahannock County school systems, Laurel Ridge President Kim Blosser said during Tuesday’s ceremony.

The new facility is possible thanks to a donation of 62 acres of land adjacent to the campus from Fauquier County to the Laurel Ridge Educational Foundation.

“It’s humbling to see how many folks have gotten behind this program,” said Jeanian Clark, vice president of Workforce Solutions and Continuing Education at the college. “These programs will finally have a home that they deserve and the noble honor of being affiliated with higher education on a community college campus.”


While Laurel Ridge’s Middletown Campus has been able to offer trades programs for decades, trades education in Fauquier has only been possible at leased locations, and – briefly – modular buildings that had been brought on campus.

“From Middletown to Northern Virginia, there were no trade schools in between,” Clark said.

As a result, students were driving very far in the evenings after work to come to Middletown for trades programs, so college officials had been on the hunt for appropriate space for quite a while.

Several years ago, the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors and County Administrator Paul McCulla asked how they could support the growth of Laurel Ridge, said Chris Coutts, vice president of communications and planning and the provost of the Fauquier Campus.

“We said this is something that is really, really important for the community and the college to be able to provide the training, the technical and workforce programs that the community needs,” said Dr. Coutts. “They saw the vision and what we wanted to create and made this possible. This is an absolute dream for us.”

About a year ago, the Educational Foundation launched a “Building the Future” campaign to invest in equipment, scholarships and instruction at the new facility, and is already more than halfway to its $1.5 million goal thanks to the generosity of community members, industry partners and the PATH Foundation.

“I stand here today giving you the commitment of the county to say yes to these types of projects, to say yes to public-private partnerships,” said McCulla. “We’re doing this for our citizens. We’re doing it for our children. We’re doing it for our grandchildren.”

Tuesday’s groundbreaking marked a new milestone for the college, said Dr. Blosser, noting the Eleanor C. and William A. Hazel Hall opens for Mountain Vista Governor’s School students next week and Laurel Ridge students on Aug. 22.

“We’re going to have more and more opportunities that we’ll be able to offer students in Fauquier and Rappahannock counties,” she said.

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Three quarters of Shenandoah Waterway locations sampled unsafe for swimming because of high bacteria levels

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About three quarters of Virginia’s water monitoring stations in the Shenandoah Valley found levels of fecal bacteria so high in the first half of 2022 that they exceeded EPA recommendations for warning people about the health risks of swimming or splashing in the water.

Seventy-six percent of Virginia Department of Environmental Quality sampling locations (44 of 58) in Shenandoah waterways from January 1 through July 12 of this year (the most recent available data) had levels of E. coli that were unsafe for swimming or recreation, according to an analysis of state monitoring numbers by the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project. In 2021, 60 percent (29 of 48) of the water monitoring stations in the Valley did not meet the standard. But those numbers are a slight improvement, if perhaps temporary, according to the independent environmental watchdog group EIP.

Both the first half of 2022, and all of 2021, had lower bacteria numbers than the average for 2015 to 2020, when almost 80 percent of samples had unhealthy levels of bacteria. Lower rainfall levels in 2021 may have temporarily reduced the runoff of manure and other pollutants that drive up bacteria levels in rivers and streams.

To examine an online map with details about Virginia’s bacteria monitoring results in locations up and down the Shenandoah Valley, and where it is safe to swim, click here.


“The bacteria levels in the Shenandoah River are still too high, and Virginia needs to do more to encourage – or require – streamside livestock fencing and prevent the chronic overapplication of manure to farm fields,” said Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Environmental Integrity Project. “The Shenandoah Valley is a treasure that deserves better protections. We do recognize that Virginia is taking steps to increase funding for farm best management practices, including by adding streamside fencing, and that deserves praise.”

In March 2022, the Virginia General Assembly approved a record $265 million for fiscal years 2023 and 2024 for farm pollution-control “best management practices” – including streamside livestock fencing and other steps to reduce runoff into waterways.

But, despite the persistently high bacteria levels in the Shenandoah, Virginia has posted no signs warning rafters, kayakers, or swimmers about bacteria levels – as it does regularly with swimming advisories on ocean beaches with high bacteria levels. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends warning swimmers when concentrations of E. coli bacteria exceed 235 colony forming units per 100 milliliters of water.

Almost 160 million chickens, 16 million turkeys and 528,000 cows are raised annually in the Shenandoah Valley’s Augusta, Page, Shenandoah and Rockingham counties. Most of their manure is spread on surrounding farmland as fertilizer, but it contains far more phosphorus than crops need for growth. The excess manure leaks pollutants into groundwater and is often washed by rain into surrounding streams.

Bacteria levels in waterways are known to increase after periods of heavy rainfall because rain flushes fertilizer and sediment into rivers and streams. Total rainfall in Harrisonburg, in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, was significantly lower in 2021 (about 37 inches) than the annual average from 2015 to 2020 (46 inches). That lower rainfall in 2021 could have temporarily reduced bacteria levels that year. Complete numbers are not yet available for 2022.

FECAL BACTERIA LEVELS IN SHENANDOAH WATERWAYS, 2015-2022

* Numbers for 2022 are for January 1 through July 12.  Water sampling data from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The threshold value used in this chart is EPA’s “beach action value” for swimming, which recommends states warn the public when bacteria levels exceed 235 counts of E. coli bacteria/100 ml water. Annual rainfall data from NOAA for Harrisonburg, Va.

In April 2019, the Environmental Integrity Project and the Shenandoah Riverkeeper released a study “Livestock Fencing in the Shenandoah Valley” that used aerial photographs of the livestock industry in to show that 81 percent of farms in the state’s two largest farming counties — Augusta and Rockingham — failed to fence their cattle out of streams, contributing to bacteria contamination.

This low fencing rate was despite a pledge by the state of Virginia to EPA that 95-percent of streams through pastures would have livestock fencing by 2025 to meet the goals of the state’s cleanup plan for the Chesapeake Bay.

The release of that April 2019 report spurred the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation to perform its own aerial survey of livestock fencing.  Virginia lawmakers then approved increased funding and reimbursement rates to encourage more farmers to install streamside livestock fencing. Legislators also passed a law that allows state officials to mandate streamside livestock fencing if the agricultural sector fails to achieve Bay pollution reduction goals by 2025.

As a result of the increased funding, an increased number of farmers in Virginia started enrolling in a state program to install livestock fencing. In Augusta and Rockingham Counties, the number of farmers signing up for the streamside fencing program grew from 26 in fiscal year 2019, to 38 in fiscal year 2020, to 55 in fiscal year 2021, and 40 in fiscal year 2022, according to data from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

For more details about bacteria monitoring in the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

In October 2019, Virginia revoked its “beach action value” for E. coli in freshwater areas, which is a trigger value for potential health risks for people swimming or recreating in waters with more than 235 counts of E. coli/100 ml of water.  The Commonwealth no longer has a beach warning value for freshwater areas like the Shenandoah River and issues no warnings when fecal bacteria levels are high in these areas.

However, despite Virginia’s change, EPA continues to recommend that states warn swimmers of potential health risks when E coli counts exceed 235 counts of E. coli/100 ml of water. So the Environmental Integrity Project in its annual reporting on the issue uses this level of bacteria as a yardstick of potential threat for water contact recreation.


(From a release by the Environmental Integrity Project. EIP is a 20-year-old nonprofit organization, based in Washington D.C. and Austin, Texas, dedicated to the enforcement of environmental laws and the strengthening of policy to protect public health and the environment.)

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Monarch Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Pregnancy Center’s Community Bab... @ Living Water Christian Church
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Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
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Appalachian Chamber Music Festiv... @ Barns of Rose Hill
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The Appalachian Chamber Music Festival is delighted to be returning to the Barns of Rose Hill on Thursday, August 18, at 7pm, for the opening night concert of our 2022 summer season. The festival celebrates[...]
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Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
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