Local & VCU


Conjoined twins separated at VCU Childrens Hospital

Twin girls conjoined at the lower chest and abdomen were separated by doctors at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University in a long, difficult surgery that doctors afterward said went “extremely well.”

The separation and reconstruction surgeries, which lasted close to 24 hours, will allow the 19-month-old girls, born in the Dominican Republic and brought to the United States by World Pediatric Project, a Richmond-based medical philanthropy, to live more normal lives. A VCU official said it was a first time the university had done such a procedure.

The twin girls, Maria Teresa and Teresa Maria, arrived in the United States in late August with their mother, Lisandra Sanatis, and her sister, Maria Estela Reynaldo, and had been staying at Hospital Hospitality House near VCU Medical Center.

The girls were admitted to the hospital Sunday after weeks of pre-surgery tests and procedures, including having balloon-like tissue expanders inserted in the abdominal area to grow extra skin for the reconstruction phase of surgery.

At about 6 a.m. Monday the medical team, which included surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and others, started the daunting task of separating the girls, then reconstructing them so that each was complete and able to survive on her own.

Brief by the Richmond Times-Dispatch


Va. death row inmate asks court to block execution

A Virginia death-row inmate has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his scheduled execution and require the state’s Supreme Court to grant him a new hearing.

Federal courts routinely block executions set after a condemned inmate’s state appeals are finished to allow them to file federal appeals. Attorneys for Anthony Juniper are instead challenging a September ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court dismissing his claims of ineffective counsel.

The Attorney General’s Office says it would not oppose Juniper’s request to block the Nov. 10 execution so he can begin his federal appeals – the usual next – but it does oppose his request for a new hearing.

Juniper was sentenced to death for the 2004 murders of his former girlfriend, her two children and her brother in Norfolk.

Brief by The Associated Press


Virginia not included in federal plan for oil, gas leases

Offshore drilling has been pushed farther onto the horizon for Virginia.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced the five-year oil and gas leasing plan for 2012-2017, and Virginia isn’t on the list.

The proposed program includes six offshore areas where there are currently active leases and exploration, according to Salazar’s office, and where there is “known or anticipated” hydrocarbon potential. It schedules 15 potential lease sales, with 12 in the Gulf of Mexico and three off of Alaska’s coast.

Virginia’s lease sale was scheduled for 2011 but was delayed until at least 2017 after the April-July 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.

U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., said he’s hopeful the Obama administration will reconsider the inclusion of Virginia.

“Oil and gas exploration within the Virginia Outer Continental Shelf – if coupled with an equitable formula for sharing revenues between the state and federal governments – would boost domestic energy production, while benefiting the Commonwealth’s economy,” he said.

Brief by the Richmond Times-Dispatch


National & International


Bolivia: DEA not welcome back

Bolivian President Evo Morales said Tuesday that U.S. drug agents are not welcome back in his country despite the newly announced normalization of diplomatic relations with Washington.

Morales told reporters during a regional summit in the Colombian capital that it is a question of “dignity and sovereignty.”

As a coca growers’ union leader before his 2005 election, Morales added, he was “personally a victim” because U.S agents controlled Bolivia’s military and police.

Bolivia’s anti-narcotics police, working closely with the Drug Enforcement Administration, often clashed with coca growers and Morales has said they once beat him unconscious.

“They repressed us in Bolivia. That has ended,” Morales said.

“For the first time since Bolivia was founded, the United States will now respect Bolivia’s rules” and laws, he added, under the agreement restoring full diplomatic ties that Bolivia and Washington signed Monday.

It comes three years after the Andean nation’s leftist government expelled the U.S. ambassador and DEA for allegedly inciting the opposition.

Brief by The Associated Press


Issue 2 falls, Ohio collective bargaining law repealed

Ohioans voted Tuesday night to repeal a Republican-backed law that restricted collective bargaining for public workers, a victory for Democrats and labor organizers both nationally and in the state.

Associated Press has declared Issue 2 (as the law was called on the ballot) dead. As of this writing, with about 75 percent of precincts in, repeal led by a whopping 62 to 38 percent margin.

Gov. John Kasich (R) took office in January vowing to curb unions’ power. But he appears to have overstepped his hand in curtailing the rights of 350,000 public workers — including firefighters and police officers — to negotiate over benefits, equipment and other issues.

The backlash against the law began as soon as Kasich signed it, in March. By August, when the governor asked for a compromise with unions, it was too late.

As in other states, the law became a battleground for an ongoing fight between labor and conservative groups over collective bargaining.

Brief by The Associated Press


Russian launches probe to moon of Mars

Russia has launched an unmanned probe on a daring mission to reach Phobos, a moon of Mars, and to fly samples of its soil back to Earth.

The Phobos-Grunt (Phobos-Soil) craft was successfully launched by a Zenit-2 booster rocket at 12:16 a.m. Moscow time Wednesday (2016 GMT Tuesday) from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Russia’s Federal Space Agency said the craft separated successfully from the booster about 11 minutes later. It will take the robotic probe a few hours to conduct a series of preliminary maneuvers before it can shoot off to the Red Planet.

The return vehicle is expected to carry up to 200 grams (7 ounces) of soil from Phobos back to Earth in August 2014.

Brief by The Associated Press

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