Local & VCU

Panel rejects campus crime notification proposals

Two measures that would have required campus police departments to notify outside law enforcement and the local commonwealth’s attorney when a death or rape is reported failed in votes taken today by the Virginia State Crime Commission.

However, the commission supported the development of mutual aid agreements between local jurisdictions and campus police agencies.

The commission’s actions on the failed measures will result in no recommendations about those proposals being forwarded to the upcoming session of the General Assembly.

They were part of amended legislation proposed by Del. Paula J. Miller, D-Norfolk, that would require greater collaboration between local and campus police.

Specifically, a measure that would have required campus police to immediately notify local law enforcement agencies of all deaths and reported rapes on campus – with the same requirement for local police if they first took a report – failed on a 5-5 vote.

Then, the commission voted down a measure 7-3 that would have required campus police to notify the local commonwealth’s attorney’s office within 24 hours after receiving a report of a death or rape.

Several commission members expressed concern that campus police agencies were being singled out, and others said they have no evidence that campus police could not independently investigate such crimes on their own.

Brief by the Richmond Times-Dispatch


Va. Court of Appeals exonerates Haynesworth

The Virginia Court of Appeals has granted a writ of actual innocence for Thomas E. Haynesworth, the Richmond man who served 27 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted in a series of rapes in the 1980s.

The vote in the court was split 6-4, with the majority issuing a two-line declaration and the minority issuing a multi-page dissension, said Olga Akselrod, a lawyer for the Innocence Project, which worked for Haynesworth’s release from prison and his court rendered exoneration.

“Thomas is now exonerated,” said Akselrod. “His record is going to be totally expunged. He will be removed from the sex offenders list and there will be no more restrictions on him,” she added.

Haynesworth, 46, spent 27 years behind bars before being paroled by Gov. Bob McDonnell in March after DNA evidence cleared him of a series of sexual assaults for which he was convicted in 1984.

Brief by the Richmond Times-Dispatch


Federal aid for Louisa County quake victims tops $5 million

Federal disaster aid approved for earthquake-related damage in Louisa County has topped $5 million.

Federal and state emergency officials say most of the aid, $5.1 million, was approved for housing expenses such as home repair costs and temporary rental assistance.

Another $29,185 in grants was approved for other essential disaster-related needs, including medical and dental expenses.

The U.S. Small Business Administration approved $715,000 in low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters or business owners.

Brief by The Associated Press

National & International

US launches virtual’ embassy for Iran

More than three decades after the bricks-and-mortar U.S. embassy in Tehran was shuttered and diplomatic relations with Iran were severed following the Islamic revolution and hostage crisis, the Obama administration has opened a virtual embassy for Iran to encourage dialogue with the Iranian people.

The web-based “embassy” went online Tuesday with versions in English and Farsi explaining why the administration has chosen a virtual diplomatic mission to further expand its effort to reach out to Iranians even as President Barack Obama’s attempts to engage the government in Tehran over its nuclear program have yet to succeed.

Earlier this year, the State Department launched a Farsi-language Twitter account and Facebook page aimed at providing news to Iranians about U.S. government policies and encouraging feedback. The virtual embassy is intended to compliment the social media sites.

“This website is not a formal diplomatic mission, nor does it represent or describe a real U.S. embassy accredited to the Iranian government,” the State Department said in an introductory note. “But, in the absence of direct contact, it can work as a bridge between the American and Iranian people.

Brief by The Associated Press


Occupy protests move to foreclosed homes

The Occupy Wall Street protests are moving into the neighborhood. Finding it increasingly difficult to camp in public spaces, Occupy protesters across the country are reclaiming foreclosed homes and boarded-up properties, signaling a tactical shift for the movement against wealth inequality.

Groups in more than 25 cities held protests Tuesday on behalf of homeowners facing evictions.

In Atlanta, protesters held a boisterous rally at a county courthouse and used whistles and sirens to disrupt an auction of seized houses. In New York, they marched through a residential neighborhood in Brooklyn carrying signs that read “Foreclose on banks, not people.” Southern California protesters rallied around a family of six that reclaimed the home they lost six months ago in foreclosure.

“It’s pretty clear that the fight is against the banks, and the Occupy movement is about occupying spaces. So occupying a space that should belong to homeowners but belongs to the banks seems like the logical next step for the Occupy movement,” said Jeff Ordower, one of the organizers of Occupy Homes.

The events reflect the protesters’ lingering frustration over the housing crisis that has sent millions of homes into foreclosure after the burst of the housing bubble that helped cripple the country’s economy.

Brief by The Associated Press


AP sources: Drone crashed in Iran on CIA mission

U.S. officials say a drone that crashed inside Iran over the weekend was one of a fleet of stealth aircraft that have spied on Iran for years from a U.S. air base in Afghanistan.

They say the CIA stealth-version of the RQ-170 unmanned craft was also used to survey Osama bin Laden’s compound before the May raid in Pakistan.

According to these officials, the U.S. has built up the air base Shindad, Afghanistan, with an eye to keeping a long-term presence there to launch surveillance missions and even special operations missions into Iran if deemed necessary. The officials say that while no specific mission into Iran has been authorized, the military has contingency plans for such clandestine missions.

Brief by The Associated Press


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