Other news we heard last week 4/18-4/24


Tuesday, April 18
USA Today digs “Idol”’s Daughtry
Fluvanna High graduate Chris Daughtry, who’s been filling the rock quotient on “American Idol,” Fox’s Tuesday night juggernaut (30 million viewers on average), ekes out the lead in USA Today’s “Idol” popularity contest today. But just barely. With 24 percent of the vote, the charismatic baldy with the tight jeans and the legions of hysterical female fans, is one percentage point ahead of Taylor Hicks going into tonight’s episode.

Wednesday, April 19
Fluvanna prepares for influx of teens
The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors tonight approved a $60 million plan to build a new high school and shuffle other students into existing buildings, WCAV reports. According to the U.S. Census, Fluvanna grew by more than 60 percent in the decade between 1990 and 2000, and as housing prices remain high closer to Charlottesville’s center, even more families can be expected to fill out the five-county surrounding area, which includes Fluvanna.

Thursday, April 20
Black hole news from UVA scientists stirs feelings of insignificance
The Times-Dispatch today sums up the latest news in black holes, those “stellar objects from which nothing, not even light, can escape.” First, UVA astronomer Craig Sarazin and some German colleagues reported that a couple of spiraling giant black holes are headed for a collision soon. By “soon,” Sarazin means millions of years from now. Then NASA scientists simulated some of what could happen when black holes merge. Mastering the fine art of understatement, Sarazin tells the T-D that researching black holes tests “our understanding of physics, to make sure we really do understand how gravity works.”

Just another D’Brick in the wall
USA Today joins the other big media (New York Times, Sports Illustrated) that lately havefallen for UVA’s wiry tackle, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, poised to go into the NFL draft next week as a top pick. In its article today, the paper ponders how a man so light, relative to others in his job, can be so successful, especially if he declines when the dessert cart beckons. But the position has changed, reporter Jarrett Bell says. “In Ferguson’s case, the lack of bulk when combined with balance, polished techniques and quick-strike power, is an asset that has made him so attractive to the NFL.”

It’s 4/20—Time for a medical marijuana ruling
Contradicting an extensive 1999 review by government scientists, the Food and Drug Administration today poo-pooed evidence that marijuana has medicinal benefits. In today’s statement, the agency flak said the FDA concluded that “smoked marijuana has not currently accepted or proven medical use in the United States and is not an approved medical treatment.” Six years ago the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, came to the exact opposite conclusion. Researchers at the Institute reviewed many studies and took testimony from dozens of experts, including local medical marijuana advocate Al Byrne, who heads the  group Patients out of Time.

Friday, April 21
Gene Worrell, local media mogul, dies at 86
Obituaries began appearing today for Gene Worrell, the local businessman who at one time owned as many as 30 newspapers, including The Daily Progress. He died on April 20. Also a philanthropist and developer, in 1975 Worrell purchased Pantops Estate, once the property of Thomas Jefferson, and there, according to the Associated Press, he kept his corporate office as well as (for a while) herds of bison and cattle.

Saturday, April 22
Cooler NoVa housing market shows speculators’ handiwork
Though The Washington Post reports today that numbers are uncertain (15-30 percent) as to how much of Northern Virginia’s once-robust housing market was due to investors and speculators, it’s clear that their impact is being felt now as they try to dump properties or are forced to lower prices in order to sell—especially townhouses and condos. The chairman of Toll Brothers, a luxury home-builder now with a presence in Charlottesville, told Wall Street analysts “that the Washington market was the hardest-hit in the nation by investors who bought properties intending to flip them, and who have put the homes up for sale,” according to the Post.

Sunday, April 23
Schilling a flash point or voters
The letters page of The Daily Progress is packed today with political endorsements and no candidate elicits more fervor (for or against) than Republican incumbent Rob Schilling, who seeks a second term on Charlottesville City Council. “During his first term, he has demonstrated a strong work ethic and a dedication to serving all of the people,” says one admiring writer. Not so, writes another: “Many folks say they are leaning toward…Schilling because they have heard that he responds to residents’ calls for help….These comments have prompted me to think about the role of our elected officials and voters’ expectations. Do we need leaders to research issues, develop legislation, do regional strategic planning and set budgetary priorities, or do we need leaders to solve personal, individual problems?”

Monday, April 24
Speed skater with a heart of gold
Twenty-six-year-old Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek was expected, at press time, to speak at UVA today. The speed skater’s topic? Relief-aid programs in the Darfur region of the Sudan where government-sponsored genocide has already claimed 400,000 lives, according to the United Nations, and 2.5 million people have been displaced. In addition, another 3.5 million are now starving. When Cheek won $40,000 at the Olympics he gave it to the cause, challenging businesses and individual donors to do the same. Visit www.savedarfur.org if you want your heart broken.