Local and VCU

Wal-Mart drops store plan near Va. Civil War site

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is dropping plans criticized by historians to build a store near a key Civil War battlefield in northern Virginia.

Lawyers announced the Arkansas-based retailer’s Wednesday in Orange County Circuit Court, where a judge had planned to hear more pretrial motions in a lawsuit challenging the project.

Wal-Mart had planned to build a 143,000-square-foot Supercenter near the site of the Battle of the Wilderness, which is viewed by historians as a critical turning point when the Civil War started to turn in favor of the North. An estimated 185,000 Union and Confederate troops fought over three days in 1864, and 30,000 were killed, injured or went missing. The war ended 11 months later.

Wal-Mart spokesman William C. Wertz said the decision to abandon the Wilderness site came after several corporate deliberations over balancing economic and preservation concerns.

“We just felt it was the right thing to do,” Wertz said.

He said the retailer would seek another site in Orange County away from the Wilderness Battlefield.

Brief by the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Ex-child-care director faces prison for embezzlement

A former director of a child-care center in Richmond’s Fan District faces up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty today to embezzling more than $98,000 from the organization over five months.

Mary Beth Lloyd, 41, of the 11600 block of Drysdale Drive in Chesterfield County was arrested in October after a multijurisdictional grand jury indicted her on a charge of embezzlement for allegedly stealing the money from Grace Covenant Child Development Center, located immediately west of Stuart Circle in the 1600 block of Monument Avenue.

Lloyd, accompanied by defense attorney Craig S. Cooley, entered a guilty plea during a brief hearing this morning before Richmond Circuit Judge Richard D. Taylor Jr.

The judge scheduled sentencing for April 19.

Matthew C. Ackley, special counsel for the grand jury, said he would ask the judge to impose a prison term on Lloyd as well as ask for her to be ordered to make restitution, which could total more than $136,000 because the embezzlement resulted in the child-care center facing various tax penalties.

Brief by the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Two arrested for robbery along Boulevard in Richmond

A woman was robbed along North Boulevard in Richmond on Monday night, and police arrested two people a short while later.

Richmond police Capt. David L. Martin said the victim, a 51-year-old woman, was not injured in the robbery, which occurred at 8:20 p.m. in the 1000 block of North Boulevard.

Martin said Ronald Kueny, 40, and Lula Harper, 52, both were arrested and charged with robbery.

Martin said the victim told police she was walking along Boulevard when she was confronted by two people in a white truck who demanded money. She gave them $35, and they drove away.

Martin said the truck, found a few minutes later, was traced to an area motel, where police arrested the two suspects. Martin said both suspects were identified by the victim.

Brief by the Richmond Times-Dispatch

National and International

Dow Jones industrial average rises above 12,000

The Dow Jones industrial average surpassed 12,000 Wednesday for the first time in two and half years as investors shrugged off weak corporate earnings and focused on President Barack Obama’s call to overhaul taxes on businesses.

The average climbed to 12,013 early Wednesday. That was the highest level during the day since June 20, 2008.

Obama said in his State of the Union address late Tuesday that he wanted to close corporate tax loopholes and use the additional revenue to lower corporate tax rates for the first time in 25 years.

That change would be popular with business leaders from both political parties. The U.S. has some of the highest corporate tax rates in the industrialized world.

“If he can take steps to simplify the tax codes, be it for individuals or corporations, I think it would be a lot easier to do business,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 35, or 0.3 percent, to 12,013 in morning trading.

Brief by The Associated Press

Giffords moved to nearby rehab facility in Houston

Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has been moved to a rehabilitation facility in Houston after her condition was upgraded from serious to good.

Doctors at Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center Hospital determined the congresswoman was ready to move Wednesday morning to nearby TIRR Memorial Hermann, where her rehabilitation will begin.

An ambulance transported her a short way just after 8:30 a.m. Central Standard Time. Helicopters buzzed overhead, and there was a heavy policy presence. A shot from a news helicopter showed a gurney wheeled into the building.

Doctors in Texas said she had been given a tube to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid.

Everyone makes such fluid, but an injury can cause the fluid to not be cleared away as rapidly as normal. A backup can cause pressure and swelling within the brain.

Giffords was shot in the head Jan. 8 in a rampage that killed six people and injured her and 12 others. The three-term Democratic congresswoman was hit in the forehead while meeting with constituents outside a Tucson supermarket.

Brief by The Associated Press

Tunisia issues international warrant for ousted president

Tunisia issued an international arrest warrant for ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on Wednesday, accusing him of taking money out of the North African nation illegally.

Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia after being driven from power this month by violent protests, was also being charged with illegally acquiring real estate and other assets abroad, Justice Minister Lazhar Karoui Chebbi said.

Chebbi spoke to reporters as Tunisian police fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters who have been pressuring the interim government to get rid of old guard ministers who served under Ben Ali. The clashes broke out in front of the prime minister’s office in Tunis, the capital. Acrid clouds of tear gas engulfed hundreds of people, and some demonstrators responded by throwing stones at police.

Tunisia, meanwhile, has requested help from Interpol in its effort to bring Ben Ali to justice, Chebbi said. The country also has a bilateral extradition agreement with Saudi Arabia, said Abdessattar Ben Moussa, a former state lawyer.

Brief by The Associated Press

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