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Teen passenger dies in Old Cox Road crash

READY TO RUMBLE

Dozens of tractors paraded through the streets of South Boston on Saturday morning to preview the upcoming Halifax County Heritage and Antique Machinery Festival, set for May 7-8 at the…

Child porn bring 20 year prison term

A South Boston man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after being found guilty in January of 11 charges of possession of child pornography and computer trespass.

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New directions

SoVaNow.com / April 07, 2021
Let’s see in how many directions this thing can fly off the handle:

» Care to guess how much money the State of Virginia set aside in its broadband expansion funding pool this year? If you came up with an answer in the vicinity of “$50 million,” give yourself a pat on the back. That was the amount in the state budget for broadband projects like the EMPOWER fiber optic network in Mecklenburg County, which requires millions of dollars to build, mile by solitary mile. Divvy up $50 million (that’s this year’s budget for the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative, VATI for short) across the entire Commonwealth, and it works out to not a whole lot of money.

President Biden and Congressional Democrats are looking to pass a $2.25 trillion-with-a-T infrastructure package that would include $100 billion for broadband expansion, one of many provisions of the plan that would especially benefit rural America. While it’s way too early to tell how much money could end up in Mecklenburg County, just consider the back-of-the-envelope math. With around 8.6 million people, Virginia has roughly 2.6 percent of the nation’s population (332.4 million people, according to United Nations estimates.) 2.6 percent of one hundred billion dollars is ... $2.6 billion dollars. That’s a beginning estimate for how much money Virginia would receive to expand broadband service in areas starved for high-speed internet, which includes a whole lotta parts of Mecklenburg County. Remarkably, Republicans in Congress are arguing that broadband doesn’t really fit into their idea of what constitutes infrastructure, which makes you wonder what planet these people flew in from.

At any rate, if you’ve been frustrated by the slow pace of broadband rollout in the countryside, the Biden proposal offers hope. (The aim of the administration is to create universal access throughout the U.S., which really will require spending tens of billions of dollars.) Comparing $50 million in the VATI budget — not the entire sum spent on Virginia rural broadband, to be sure, although that is the state’s investment — and $2.6 billion is like comparing Godzilla to the skink that lives in mortal fear of the household cats on my front porch. I think we all should be rooting for Godzilla here, don’t you?

» Speaking of the big spicy lizard, for the first time in more than a year I went to the movies Friday night. (Before you ask, I have gotten both shots of the Pfizer vaccine, Friday’s movie date was 10 days out from my second dose, and I wore a mask most of the time during the movie except when scarfing down popcorn.) I can reliably report that the entire experience was fantastic! The movie was big, loud, dumb and fun (the booming sound level did take some getting used to after a year away from the movie theater) and if you’re not into the disaster genre, and instead prefer period dramas and the storytelling rendered in hushed tones, “Godzilla vs. Kong” probably isn’t the ticket for you. I won’t ruin the story except to say the climatic scene is set in an Asian city and by the time the big galoots on screen are finished, what’s left is not much Hong ... only Kong ... plus a few friends.

If you’re wondering whether you should get the vaccine, please consider the fact that all three shots approved for emergency use (the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson formulas) are safe, highly effective and cause only minor side effects if any at all. I can personally attest to feeling nothing after my first shot and only a mild stomach ache after the second, which could have been a symptom of nothing more than the fried rice I cooked up earlier that evening. Even the shots themselves were nothing — I barely noticed when the needle came out, the sensation was so slight, and I felt virtually no soreness afterward, although certainly other people have mild lingering pain in the arm that goes away soon enough.

Bottom line: If we all want life to return to normal, or some semblance thereof, it’s imperative that enough people get vaccinated to achieve “herd immunity,” the term for when enough people are immune to the coronavirus to prevent it from spreading to others who, for various reasons, are medically unable to get vaccinated. If the virus is allowed to spread for too long to too many people, the risk is that it will mutate into variants that can overwhelm the vaccines, putting us back at square one with Pandemic 2.0.

The two great achievements in 20th century medical science were the rise of antibiotics and vaccination, both of which have saved billions of lives around the world. All three vaccines on the market are the product of the 21st century advance in genetic science that holds the promise of being the great medical achievement of our time — potentially able to control or eradicate deadly diseases like cancer, malaria and viral infections that kill millions of people every year. The quick rollout of effective vaccines to stop COVID-19 is a great triumph of our own time. Let’s not screw it up as individuals with shortsighted decisions not to get vaccinated.

If for some reason you see vaccination as risky (it’s not) or an infringement on “personal freedom,” consider what will happen if the country is unable to put this pandemic behind us. It’ll be more of the miserable same: zero or limited access to ballgames, theaters, restaurants and other places where people ordinarily gather for fun; ongoing disruptions in the school calendar as outbreaks and exposures persist; closed offices and cumbersome, uncomfortable workplaces; and worst of all, the nagging fear of infection even at places and events that you may frequent in the future.

For better or worse, folks, we’re all in this thing together ....

» QUICK HITS: In February in this space, I wrote about Virginia’s upcoming reapportionment of election districts and what the process could mean for Southside Virginia. (Short answer: fewer districts and General Assembly seats for Southside.) Now it’s official: New district lines won’t be drawn in time for this year’s statewide legislative elections (all 100 seats in the House of Delegates are on the ballot in November), which means we can look forward to voting in legislative elections three years in a row: in 2021, the regularly-scheduled year for House of Delegate races (House seats have two-year terms); again in 2022, when delegates will be required to run again in their redrawn districts, and in 2023, when both the House of Delegates and state Senate will be on the ballot. (State senators are elected on a four-year cycle, with the last race taking place in 2019.) Join us in congratulating Del. Tommy Wright ahead of time for having to run for re-election three years in a row, should he choose to do so. Quite a load, that.

In case you’re wondering, reapportionment follows on the heels of the 10-year U.S. Census, which was delayed in 2020 by the pandemic. The state’s new bipartisan redistricting commission announced in March it would be unable to complete the work of redrawing election lines because of the delay in reporting the Census results. Three consecutive legislative elections in November 2021, 2022 and 2023 always seemed inevitable, but now it’s official.

Last week, Gov. Ralph Northam joined U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in Alexandria for an announcement of a $3.7 billion investment in Virginia’s ailing rail system. The deal will allow Amtrak and the Virginia Rail Express in the Northern Virginia-D.C. area to increase ridership while giving a major boost to rail-based freight service, which is especially bottlenecked in the Northern Virginia area but suffers from inadequate rail capacity throughout Virginia. A component of the deal delivers a potentially huge boost to Mecklenburg County — it gives Amtrak the right to run trains on the abandoned Norfolk Southern line that passes through La Crosse.

With a stretch of track that runs from Petersburg to Raleigh, the Norfolk Southern line is an essential component of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor, which was first proposed in the early 1990s and has mostly sat idle since for lack of funding. Various iterations of the plan have called for building an Amtrak station in La Crosse, linking to the east-west U.S. 58 corridor. The Alexandria announcement marks the biggest leap forward for the SEHSR corridor since its inception. This is news to which we offer a three-word response: more more more. Well, that plus “Please,” which would make it four words, I suppose ...





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