Monthly Archives: March 2008

Tax rebate unfair to students?

Delle Beganie

Wondering who will benefit from the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008? At first glance, a working student seems to meet the requirements and should receive the anticipated $600 for individual taxpayers:

1) Earn at least $3,000 in 2007

2) File a 1040 or 1040A for 2007

But many working students are finding out that they will NOT receive the money because their parents still claim them as dependents.

“I think it’s ridiculous that [some] students don’t get it because we by far need it the most,” said VCU student Joe Nakashian.

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Alumni on the air at college station

Delle Beganie

radio picture

Although VCU alumni Jon Carpenter and Mike Liedtke may have graduated years ago, they’re not quite ready to leave behind their weekly college radio show.

The self-proclaimed ‘old guys’ of the station, started a radio program called “After Dark” on WVCW as juniors. Seven years later, both have since gone on to professional jobs, but still find time to come back to their alma mater to host the show – a two hour compilation of music, news and commentary.

Even though these two dedicated alumni enjoy spending their Thursday nights in the studio at VCU, they say that don’t think the university provides adequate resources to WVCW. Currently, the station has no AM or FM outlet and is only available to listen to online. In addition, there’s no phone in the studio, so listeners have to call or text the hosts cell phones.  Still Carpenter says he has a reason to keep coming back.

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Investments help fuel genocide, delegate says

By Julia Linden
Capital News Service

Shannon Valentine’s life suddenly changed when high school students approached the state legislator from Lynchburg, voicing their concern about American investments helping fuel genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Valentine, a Democrat, decided to introduce legislation that human rights activists believe could help bring an end to a genocide that has killed more than 300,000 and displaced an estimated 2 million civilians since the crisis began in 2003.

Across the United States and the world, public and private entities have been dumping investments in companies that do business in Sudan.

Over the past few years, 24 states from Maine to California have enacted legislation to sell off investments in companies linked to Sudan. Those investments help fund the Sudanese government, which U.S. officials and human rights activists say has helped rebels massacre Darfur residents.

This year and last, Valentine introduced a bill that would have required the Virginia Retirement System to divest from these companies. VRS owns about $51 million in stock in companies that do business in Sudan. Most of them are oil companies.

“There is a tremendous movement with divestment. At least 13 states are introducing it this year,” Valentine said. “The strategy is working.”

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Resolved, to celebrate their lives

During their 2008 session, legislators passed 160 House resolutions and 91 Senate resolutions “celebrating the lives” of people who had passed away. Some of the resolutions recognized the same person – so in all, 231 people were honored. Here is a sample.

Honoree: William Baldwin Bynum

Achievement: An educator and coach at Broadwater Academy in Exmore for 42 years. He “touched the lives of hundreds of the Eastern Shore’s future leaders, professionals, and outstanding citizens” and was “honored with many awards and accolades over the years.”

Resolution and sponsor: HJ 133, by Delegate Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomac

Honoree: Mary Coyle

Achievement: A member for nearly 20 years of the West Fairfax County Citizens Association. She “was committed to making the community a safe and pleasant place to live” while “raising four children by herself” and “nurturing her wonderful family.”

Resolution and sponsor: HJ 138, by Delegate Tim Hugo, R-Centreville

Honoree: Louise Towles English

Achievement: Founder of Faith Christian Academy and a “kind, energetic, and devout woman.” She “gave generously of her time to many community causes and offered financial support to various organizations” and had an “unwavering belief in the power of prayer.”

Resolution and sponsor: HJ 409, by Delegate Kathy Byron, R-Lynchburg

Honoree: Oliver White Hill Sr.

Achievement: Richmond lawyer and civil rights icon “who challenged the laws of our land and the conscience of our country,” overturning school segregation and Jim Crow laws. The first African American to serve on the Richmond City Council since Reconstruction, he died last year at age 100.

Resolution and sponsor: HJ 251, by Delegate Frank Hall, D-Richmond

Honoree: Emily Jane Hilscher

Achievement: A freshman at Virginia Tech who died at age 18 in last year’s campus shootings. A Rappahannock High School graduate, she “had a great respect and affinity for all things in nature, and animals seemed to sense her compassion and ‘were drawn to her like a magnet.’”

Resolution and sponsor: SJ 86, by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg

– Bethany Emerson

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A Postal Worker Who Delivered More Than Mail

By Bethany Emerson
Capital News Service

Before adjourning Thursday, the 2008 General Assembly put a spotlight on payday loans, mental health issues and 231 exceptional lives.

Legislators passed resolutions commemorating Virginians who made significant contributions to their communities – from chemists to cattle breeders, artists to students. The honorees were everyday heroes whose lives had a lasting impact.

One hero was Collins Howlett III, a Richmond native who loved potato salad, served as a postal carrier for more than 30 years and worked tirelessly for the betterment of his neighborhood and city. Howlett was honored by House Joint Resolution 223, sponsored by Delegate Frank Hall of Richmond.

“Collins Howlett was a very special individual. He had talents that would do credit to anyone,” Hall said. “Those talents included, but were not limited to, personal vocation skills, organizational skills, motivational skills and probably, most simply put, leadership skills.”

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Retirement funds linked to Darfur genocide

By Julia Linden
Capital News Service

The General Assembly doesn’t usually delve into international issues, but the Virginia Senate recently did: It passed legislation requiring the Virginia Retirement System to sell off its investments in companies whose business practices, according to human rights activists, support the genocide in Darfur.

However, a committee in the House of Delegates proceeded to kill Senate Bill 87 for the 2008 legislative session. Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, R-Fairfax, who carried the bill, has vowed to submit the legislation again next year.

“One thing we can do is remove our investments from our retirement system to make it less economically viable for companies to invest in Sudan,” Cuccinelli said. “On a philosophical level, we should do something – and it is the only thing we can do.”

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$51 million invested in 10 ‘worst offenders’

The Virginia Retirement System owns stock in 10 companies that the Sudan Divestment Task Force considers the “worst offenders” for indirectly supporting the genocide in Darfur. Here are the companies and how much VRS has invested in them as of Nov. 30:

  • China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (oil company, China): $24.3 million
  • Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd. (oil company, India): $10.2 million
  • PetroChina (oil company, China): $4.3 million
  • Wartsila (power plant operations, Finland): $3.6 million
  • China PetroChemical Corp. (oil company, China): $2.3 million
  • Chennai Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (oil company, India): $1.7 million
  • Sinopec Shanghai (oil company, China): $1.3 million
  • Petrofac (oil company, United Kingdom): $1.2 million
  • Dongfeng Motor Corp. (military equipment, China): $1.1 million
  • Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (oil company, India): $500,000

Source: Analysis of data from the Virginia Division of Legislative Services and Sudan Divestment Task Force

– Julia Linden

Who’s stopped investing in Sudan?

Across the United States and the world, public and private entities have been dumping investments in companies that do business in Sudan.

In December, the U.S. Congress passed the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act. It encourages state and local governments to sell off such investments.

According to the Genocide Intervention Network, hundreds of entities have adopted divestment policies. They include:

* 22 states, from Vermont to California. Virginia and 22 other states have considered the idea.

* 59 universities, starting with Harvard in 2005. Campaigns to pursue Sudan divestment policies have been initiated at 57 other universities.

* 16 cities, including Baltimore, Denver and Washington, D.C.

* 10 international and religious organizations, such as Presbyterian Church USA, Unitarian Universalist Association and United Jewish Communities.

* 18 countries, including Australia, Italy, Japan, Sweden, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Nine companies have ceased operations in Sudan or plan to do so. They include Rolls Royce PLC, which sells oil-engineering equipment, and Weatherford International, an oilfield services company based in Houston.

– Julia Linden

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Embedded Journalist: ROTC weekend


The ROTC Spider Battalion conducted its spring field training exercise (FTX) at the end of February at Fort Pickett in Blackstone, Va. Part of that training for the cadets was to have a member of the news media embedded with the unit. VCU InSight’s Matt Becker spent the weekend with Spider Battalion.

Matt Becker

The Spider Battalion took off from University of Richmond on Friday, February 29 in two waves of Black Hawk helicopters. Only a few minutes after landing, the helicopters were loaded and back in the air. The wind whipped frigid air into the chopper for the 30 minute trip to Fort Pickett.

At 6:30 p.m. as the second set of Black Hawks touched down. I exited the aircraft and ran alongside cadets to get outside the helicopter blade radius. The drop-off point was a little off, so we all had a short hike to get to base camp.

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