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Local News

Charlottesville: Not a Typo

by Benjamin D. Herson

Prior to our (“Great Typo Hunt”) event in Charlottesville, I decided to send out a little tweet.  (Yes, I have recently become yet another twit.)  Unfortunately, I’d botched something.  The red squiggles indicated I’d misspelled the word Charlottesville.  I stared at it for a moment.  Before I could even start adding or deleting letters–the way you do when you get those squiggles and figure you must have just gotten this or that little thing wrong so you change it to see if the squiggles go away–I realized that I didn’t even know what to change.  So I asked the human spell-checker, also known as Jeff Deck, the founder of TEAL, to spell the city we were currently in.  He spelled it and it checked out.  TweetDeck simply didn’t recognize it, hadn’t listed it in their lexicon of proper nouns.  It bothered me that I’d actually stared at it wondering what I’d gotten wrong, that the fact that I couldn’t even guess what to change hadn’t made me shout back at the screen, “I defy you, villain!  I know better!”

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Featured Articles Local News

Changing Precipitation in Virginia?

RUMORS ABOUND: Much ado has been made about the prospect of changing levels of precipitation in Virginia. On one hand, recent moisture shortages (the most recent having been last summer) have elicited speculation that our precipitation might be decreasing, spurring Virginia Drought Task Force activity as well as claims that global climate change will be taking its toll on the state in the form of a drier climate.

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Opinion

The Kevin Alfred Strom Case

Kevin Alfred Strom (pictured) — the Charlottesville man who’s accused of being a racist and who pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography in a politically tinged case in which his main accuser was cop-follower/blogger estranged spouse Elisha Strom (herself now convicted of obstruction of justice) — staunchly maintains his innocence. What should the community’s attitude be to him? — Ed.

by D. Peter Maus

I’M GOING TO BE CAUTIOUS about addressing the politics, here, because I often find Kevin Strom’s politics to be uncomfortable, but he’s made a point that’s not altogether out of line. And raises legitimate questions about what actually happened, here.

Convicted upon the facts, perhaps. Convicted on the evidence, perhaps. And the truth is that only Kevin really knows what actually happened when the authorities came calling.

But, child porn is one of today’s hot button issues. Like heroin in the 50’s and cocaine in the 70’s, child porn is one of those issues that generally gets a pass when questions are raised about procedure in law enforcement. But, like heroin and cocaine, child porn has been made very easy to convict on. In fact, one need not even know one is in possession to be convicted. Hidden in clauses of bills like DMCA, are items making the reception, even if unsolicited or unknown, of child porn an actionable, criminal offense.

In that light, it’s very much like heroin and cocaine: Plant an item, try in the press, convict on the evidence.

Especially easy, when the target is politically hot, as is Kevin Strom.

There are few better ways to destroy someone in this culture than to attach their name to something like child porn. And that, alone, should raise questions when it happens to a politically charged citizen. Who benefits from the diminution of a politically charged citizen, unless it is someone who is politically invested?

Consider also, that we no longer accept the completed sentence as ‘payment in full’ for an offense in this society. No longer does the convict get a clean start, and an opportunity to rebuild their life after it’s been leveled by the legal system. No longer does the past get to be the past. Today, we have websites, we have registries, we have notices that there are convicts living among us. None more reviled than the child molester, or the ‘sex offender.’ And they are tarred for all time with that epithet.

Even if they are not actually guilty.

You think that doesn’t happen?

Just an example: Half of the people on death row in Illinois were proven to have been innocent when the evidence could be more coolly and more accurately examined. Let me repeat. Half of the people on death row in Illinois were proven to have been wrongly convicted.

Does anyone think that can’t happen in any other state?

Anyone think that can’t happen with those accused of sex crimes?

ESPECIALLY when there is a politically charged component to someone’s life?

Then consider this: Even the judge in Kevin’s case said the prosecutors were out of line and dismissed the bulk of actions as flimsy abuses of process. He even acknowledged that Federal agents were prosecuting what was, in fact, a local matter. But, Kevin’s politics stabbed at the heart of the Federal Government. If that’s not a coincidence, it needs to be proven.

And the single count upon which he was convicted was based on a confession extorted against threats of the horrors of a life in a federal prison as a sex crime convict.

Consider also, that he has sole custody of his children. Something a judge would not permit were he actually believed guilty of a sex crime.

And he has ready access to Internet traffic. Something that also would not be permitted, were he believed to be guilty.

These things must be considered when evaluating the conviction against Kevin’s rebuttal. But, as a culture, we don’t. Because ‘child porn’ is attached to the matter.

The entire Constitution of the United States was written by men with an innate distrust of the power of government, and the fear of the abuses of men overwhelmed by power. They specifically prohibited the creation of propaganda organs of government to bamboozle the public with false witness, and guaranteed a free press to protect themselves from such an abomination. (Which we have since voluntarily abrogated, apparently.) They were men who’d experienced first hand the horrors of power. And they created a legal system designed to protect the innocent, and protect the falsely accused, by remaining institutionally skeptical, and questioning everything said about someone, putting in place safeguards to protect the human rights of the accused against legal abuses, and allowing for the true recovery of one’s life after conviction. So that once sentence is served, the prosecution ends. Unless provoked by a next offense.

We’ve gotten away from all of that. We try in the press. The government forms alliances with media (Google has an office in the White House, for Christ’s sake). We empower one class against the other. (In Florida, a man is automatically removed from his home on charges of spousal abuse, even if the accusation is made anonymously by phone from out of state by someone who’s never met either party. Conviction is also nearly automatic. And this is becoming the standard across the States.) We persecute at whim. We prosecute for unpopularity of language. We erase protections from abuse, and presumptions of innocence. We register released offenders. And we persecute in perpetuity.

And we do it without the skepticism that the Founding Fathers specifically codified into the structure of the Nation. The skepticism that ensures the protection of the rights of the accused. The skepticism that ensures the pursuit of the absolute truth.

That, alone, should raise questions that deserve answers about every conviction, every accusation, every interview of a citizen whose politics stand in opposition to the Government.

It is our right to dissent. Guaranteed by the Constitution. It is our right to oppose. It’s how we keep the government honest. To limit the power of what Paine termed ‘a necessary evil.’

And, yet….

Again, Kevin, alone, knows what the truth really is. But in the case of one so politically charged, we should all be skeptical of what is said about him. It may, indeed be true. But in a case where politics figure so prominently in the irregular pursuit of citizen, we must remain skeptical.

We owe that to everyone so accused. We owe that to the intent of the Founding Fathers. We owe it to The Truth.

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Local News

Stalking: Elisha Strom Charged

Elisha R. Strom, 35, of Bedford County, was arrested in Charlottesville in 2010 for allegedly stalking a federal agent. The arrest warrant was issued in Greene County, where the agent resides, according to the Greene County Sheriff’s Department. Strom was released on her own recognizance, though her laptop computer and camera are being held as evidence.

Elisha Strom has been arrested twice before for following, photographing, and publishing personal information about members of the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement (JADE) Task Force. Strom’s high level of interest in the Task Force apparently stemmed from a rift between her and JADE officer Brian O’Donnell, who, in his dual role as an FBI agent, worked closely with her during the trial of Strom’s husband, Kevin Alfred Strom, in 2007.

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Featured Articles

Explore Our Virginia

LET’S EXPLORE the region around Charlottesville, Virginia — Charlottesville and Albemarle County have a combined population of around 120,000, with higher education, tourism, light manufacturing, agriculture, and retail sales constituting the economic base. Over the years, citizens have done much to preserve the natural beauty and character of Albemarle County. The countryside, especially in the springtime, ranks among the most beautiful sites in the nation.

Take a picnic and drive into the countryside; you’ll discover numerous Civil War sites and historical markers detailing more than two hundred years of nationally-important history. Beautiful estates, bounded by titanic old-growth trees and enclosing delightful architecture, dot the rolling-hill landscape.

Some highlights include:

The Albemarle County Courthouse: Two blocks north of the famous Downtown Mall. Built in 1762, the courthouse was the site of a raid by British soldiers hoping to capture fleeing state legislators. Most of the revolutionaries escaped, though Daniel Boone was captured.

Ash Lawn-Highland: Just over two miles from Monticello. The restored home of President James Monroe, this 550-acre estate features gardens, farm demonstrations, and a lovely hiking trail. The scene of many events such as the Summer Festival (opera and musical theatre), the Champagne and Candlelight Tour, and the Colonial Crafts Weekend. Open daily except Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Thanksgiving. Admission is charged.

Montpelier: Located near Orange, Virginia. Montpelier is a 2,750-acre estate that includes farmland, race courses, a terraced two-acre formal garden, a stunning landscape, a National Landmark Forest, active archaeological sites, and more than 130 buildings.

Charlottesville/Albemarle Convention and UVA Visitors Center: All the information you need, including maps, guides, brochures and on-the-spot help and advice, can be found here. UVA Visitor Center — 2306 Ivy Road; and area Visitor Center — Downtown at the eastern end of the Downtown Mall (Open daily except Sunday: 10-5).

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Opinion

Baking Charlottesville (A Great Real Estate Market?)

Charlottesville, Virginia was recently voted the number one place to live in the Unites States by two formidable publications: USA Today and Frommer’s Travel. Follow this perfect recipe on how a small city was able to earn these formidable accolades.

How does a small city of 60,000 people earn the respect as the number one place to live and work in the country? It’s the Charlottesville real estate market! It’s hot…hot…hot.

Charlottesville, Virginia real estate has been rocketing ever since it earned these accolades last spring.

“The emails are coming in from all over the country,” adds Toby Beavers, an internet savvy realtor and webmaster of http://www.Charlottesville-Area-Real-Estate.com.

“They all want to know what’s so great about Charlottesville real estate. Very few know a thing about the Charlottesville area real estate market…o r even Virginia.”

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Local News

UVA “Teddy Bear Clinic”

Diana Cummins writes at the UVA Web site that children love teddy bears. That’s not news, but the way teddy bears are being used by University of Virginia nursing students is news. Cummins writes”

“Assistant professor Carol Lynn Maxwell-Thompson conducted a Teddy Bear Clinic at Clark Elementary School in Charlottesville. The purpose of the clinic was to familiarize 3- and 4-year-old children in the preschool program with nurses and medical instruments. Karen Grove, an alumna of U.Va.’s School of Nursing and current librarian at Clark Elementary, came up with the idea for the clinic to encourage preschoolers to be more enthusiastic about getting regular checkups. Faculty, staff and students at the Nursing School made personal contributions to buy 56 identical teddy bears through U.Va. Bookstore buyer Jan Taylor, who provided a discounted price.”

Each child was given a bear (each with a special name) at the beginning of the process, and it was explained to the three- and four-year-olds that their bears were sick and needed the help of a nurse and doctor. It’s hoped that the exercise will be repeated at other venues and that the community’s children will learn to lose their fear of doctors, nurses, and hospitals.

Cummins again: “Nursing students showed the children what the medical instruments did and the children began checking out their bears; they looked down the bears’ throats with flashlights and tongue depressors, checked heart rate and listened to lungs with a stethoscope, learned how to check blood pressure and temperature, and weighed their bears.”

It’s not known to what extent that children from different social groups fear medical practitioners and procedures.

Check out the full Teddy Bear Clinic article