Local & VCU

Virginia Tech seeks to block fine in shooting case

Virginia Tech says it acted appropriately in alerting the campus that bloody spring day in 2007 during what turned out to be the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The government disagrees and has levied $55,000 in fines, contending the school was too slow in notifying students, faculty and staff and therefore in violation of a federal law requiring timely warnings when there are safety threats.

The university gets a chance Wednesday to begin making its case before an Education Department administrative judge, Ernest C. Canellos, in hopes of erasing a fine that isnt hefty but can leave a black mark on an institution’s record.

The fines were levied under a law known as the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to provide warnings in a timely manner and to report the number of crimes on campus.

In the Virginia Tech case, the rare hearing is expected to last two or three days. It probably won’t end with an immediate ruling and further legal challenges could follow. Virginia Tech hasn’t indicated it is backing down even though experts say schools found in violation of the law typically accept a fine and agree to changes or negotiate a settlement.

Brief by the Richmond Times-Dispatch


Some medical advisors question abortion rules

Abortion-rights activists are not the only people unhappy with emergency abortion clinic regulations that await Gov. Bob McDonnell’s signature.

Some medical experts who advised state health officials on the development of the regulations suggest that political concerns, not safety problems, were behind the crackdown and are disappointed some of their key recommendations were not followed.

Legislation passed last winter by the General Assembly requires that all clinics performing five or more first-trimester abortions per month be regulated like hospitals. The legislation called for emergency regulations to take effect by Dec. 31 and remain in place for a year while permanent regulations are developed.

Supporters of the regulations say the goal is to protect women’s health. Opponents claim the regulations are intended to reduce access to abortions.

A McDonnell spokesman said the Republican governor continues to review the regulations.

Brief by The Associated Press


Cuccinelli says now is the time to run for governor

Most of Virginia’s top Republicans were in Southwest Virginia at the Homestead resort this weekend celebrating their success in last month’s elections and plotting legislative strategy for the upcoming General Assembly session.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, however, was in New York, preparing to appear as a panelist in Saturday night’s prime-time Fox News forum of GOP presidential candidates.

He still managed to crash their party.

Cuccinelli’s announcement that he would run for governor in 2013 sent shock waves across Virginia’s political landscape. It set up an intra-party battle with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling that will force Republicans to take sides, and perhaps provides an opening to state Democrats, soundly thrashed in the 2009 statewide elections.

Brief by the Richmond Times-Dispatch

National & International

Man dead at Occupy campsite on North Texas campus

An official at the University of North Texas says a man has been found dead at a campsite on the school’s campus where Occupy Denton protesters have been gathering.

The Dallas Morning News reports that university spokesman Buddy Price says officers from the school’s police department found the man’s body Saturday after someone called authorities. Price says no one else was at the encampment when police arrived.

He told the newspaper the man is believed to have been a member of the Occupy Denton encampment.

The man’s name and age have not been released. An autopsy is pending.

University police referred calls to Price on Saturday night. Price did not immediately return a phone call to The Associated Press.

Denton is about 40 miles northwest of Dallas.

Brief by The Associated Press


Latin and Caribbean nations create bloc

Leaders from across Latin America and the Caribbean pledged closer ties to safeguard their economies from the world financial crisis as they formed a new bloc on Saturday that included every nation in the hemisphere except the United States and Canada.

Several presidents stressed during the two-day summit that they hope to ride out turbulent times by boosting local industries and increasing trade within the region.

“It seems it’s a terminal, structural crisis of capitalism,” Bolivian President Evo Morales said in a speech Saturday. “I feel we’re meeting at a good moment to debate … the great unity of the countries of America, without the United States.”

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and some of his closest allies called the new regional bloc a tool for standing up to U.S. influence. But other leaders focused more on economic concerns and on working together to confront issues such as drug trafficking and the effects of climate change.

The region has so far weathered the economic woes, achieving growth of more than 5 percent last year.

Brief by The Associated Press


U.S. budget cuts hit a wall

The coming year-end spending spree after so much debate over budget deficits shows just how hard it is to stem the government’s flow of red ink.

Despite a setback in the Senate last week, lawmakers are under increasing pressure from President Barack Obama to spend $120 billion or so to renew a Social Security tax cut that averaged less than $1,000 per household this year. They’re ready to commit up to $50 billion more to continue unemployment benefits to people out of work for more than half a year.

And doctors expect to be rescued, again, from steep cuts in their Medicare payments. Combine that with the tax cuts and jobless benefits, and Congress could add almost $200 billion to the federal ledger this month.

The spree follows the failure of three high-profile efforts at big deficit deals: talks led by Vice President Joe Biden; efforts by Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to strike a deal; and the cratering of a deficit supercommittee before Thanksgiving.

Brief by The Associated Press


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