Recapping Virginia’s NCAA Performance

The Virginia Cavalier’s quest for the NCAA champion title started out optimistic. They were listed as a first seed team expected to make it in the final four. Commentators early on discussed how the stars were aligned for Virginia to take the title.

A lot of their players had participated in the tournament before. They knew what they were doing, and what to expect. Malcolm Brogdon was listed as one of March Madness’ top ten players to keep an eye on. Many consider him responsible for bringing the team their best season since the eighties. Askmen.com regarded him as in the top two of best players competing in the tournament. He is known for never making mistakes and never giving up. He is also in contention for the Naismith trophy.

Anthony Gill was another University of Virginia player expected to lead the team to victory. He has astonishing footwork and is often referred to as the centerpiece of the team. Before the tournament started, he acknowledged that him and his teammates has learned a lot over their previous performances in the tournament and had grown from their mistakes.

The last two years Michigan had been the school to send Virginia packing. So this year when they found out they would not have to play each other, it seemed like smooth sailing. Then Virginia played Syracuse.

Virginia started out strong, but the last half of the last quarter everything changed. At one point, Virginia did not earn a single point in a five minute period. Coach Tony Bennett hoped to be up ten points at half, allowing his team some cushion to finish the game. In a twenty minute time span near the end of the game, Syracuse scored almost fifty points. A comeback so large no cushion could help.

Virginia should be content with its elite eight finish. They could have done better, but they could have done worse too. They were expected to dominate this season, but a lot of hopeful Virginians ended up with busted brackets. Good thing that there is always next year. Go Cavs!

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Virginia and Gerrymandering

This week the Wittman v. Personuballah trial began its time in the Supreme Court. Since Antonin Scalia’s recent passing, it is hard to predict the outcome of this case. The issue being tried is racial gerrymandering in the state of Virginia, primarily in Wittman County.

Wittman County is a primarily African American community. They are represented in the House by Representative Bobby Scott (D). Many citizens of Wittman County have sued the Commonwealth stating they were all corralled into a district to benefit Bobby Scott. The interesting part is, Bobby Scott is not the mastermind behind this scandal. Citizens believe “racist mapmakers” drew the lines to strip African Americans of any voting value in Virginia.

Bobby Scott is the only African American congressman in all of Virginia. Only 19.7% of the Virginia population is of African American descent. Over the last several decades the Commonwealth has seen rather predictable election outcomes. In the last election, 3/100 House seats changed, and 0/40 Senate seats changed.

Putting all African Americans in one district would solidify Bobby Scott’s seat, and keep black voters from possibly interfering with white friendly districts and elections.

Virginia has been referred to as “the most gerrymandered state in the U.S.” When map makers redrew the lines in 2011, they swore they were colorblind. The Voting Rights Act mandates that they take ethnicities into consideration when mapping out districts,  but they did not use ethnicities to their advantage they claim. Currently, 75% of Virginia’s district lines are being challenged. If Wittman wins their Supreme Court case, we could be seeing an entirely new Virginia. Also, it will not assure anyone will keep their seat if they have an entirely new constituency.

In court defending the mapmakers is Michael Carvin. Carvin is regarded as the legal Donald Trump. He says whatever obnoxious and extreme ideas he has to in order to get his point across. He was also a lawyer in the King v. Burwell Supreme Court case regarding the Affordable Care Act. He did not fare well in that case, and things are not looking too promising for him in this case either. Had Antonin Scalia still be sitting on the bench, maybe. However, now he is facing the powerful and strict Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The case continues.

Virginia Man Regrets Attempting to Join ISIS

One of the biggest news stories this week was the capture of one of the leaders from the November Paris attacks. The terrorist was taken in Belgium after months on the run. However, Virginia had a big capture of its own. Mahmoud Amin was apprehended by Kurdish officials for trying to join ISIS. Amin had told his family he was on his way to vacation in Greece last week when he was arrested. Frighteningly, the U.S. authorities had no clue that he had left and was intertwined with ISIS either.  

A simple grammatical confusion lead to Mahmoud’s capture. He mistook the arabic words of frontline and border, sending him to the wrong place. The breaking news came as a shock to his family. When asked to identify Mahmoud, they could not believe the accusations were true. Amin’s family told reporters that Amin never mentioned ISIS, and he did not know know how to speak or read Arabic. His family has not handled the scandal well, reportedly lashing out at the media and being extremely hurt by their family member’s actions.

It is believed Amin had been trying to align himself with ISIS in Syria for two months prior to his arrest. He had been in contact with people from the Middle East since November. Mahmoud is currently being held by Kurdish authorities. The most interesting part of this story is, could it be considered a capture? News outlets have revealed Amin willingly turned himself over to authorities.

When Kurdish soldiers saw the militant approaching their gates, they sounded alarms and released a special ops team under the assumption he was a suicide bomber. When confronted, he told the guards in perfect English that he wanted to surrender himself. This story has similarities to one published several weeks ago of a young girl who fled to Syria to be a bride of ISIS and later begged Kurdish fighters to help her escape back home.

If the story Mahmoud Amin has submitted is true, he will be the first American to officially surrender himself to authorities. When he turned himself in, on his person was a Virginia driver’s license, mixed currencies, and several cell phones, but no weapons.

Among Americans who flee to fight alongside ISIS, ninety-eight percent are male, under thirty, and convert to Islam. Amins court date is set for mid-July of this year. Currently, Amin is facing 20 years in prison. Even though the Virginia native is considering his move a “bad decision” he still attempted to join an extremist group and that does not sit well with many.

One positive aspect however, is Amin can be used as a treasure trove of information. He can fill the government in on how he found out about ISIS, what attracted him, who his resources were, and who helped him once he landed in Syria. During Amin’s first public appearance, he claimed love is what drove him to fly to Syria. He also informed the press that once he realized he did not agree with what was being taught to him by the extremist group, he understood it was time for him to leave.

Virginia’s New Normal

If you have felt like the number and severity of storms has intensified in Virginia over the last decade, you are not alone. FEMA and the Department of Agriculture have both released studies proving that within the last several years in particular, Virginia has endured an increased number of harsh floods and tropical storms. In a recent survey, researchers found that 91% of Virginians have been impacted in someway by dangerous weather at home since 2010. Scientists and many others fear that the situation could worsen if things do not change. It is important that residents stop denying science and embrace reality. If changes are not made analysts predict that between $12-87 billion worth of damage could occur before the end of the century to the state for lovers. “This is not a tomorrow issue, but a today issue.” Systems need to be in place to protect military bases, homes, and businesses across the state.

Many residents are pushing for clean energy legislation. Recently, Virginia announced that it is constructing the state’s first wind farm. The wind farm will aide in cutting back wasteful energy spending. Also, an expansion of solar fields in Northern Virginia were approved. Even though these are big advancements towards a greener Virginia, there is more that can be done. Lives are at risk. Governor McAuliffe said recently that he will continue to work hard on pushing Virginia to closer align with the government’s pending Clean Power Plan. This bill is currently waiting to be approved by the Supreme Court, which will eventually require all states to follow strict green policy initiatives. McAuliffe aims to have Virginia 100% dependent on clean renewable energy.

There are several projects already in progress dedicated to protecting Virginians. Virginia received a $840,000 grant to confront the threats of rising sea levels. After experiencing such severe weather patterns over the last couple years, people are learning adjustments need to be made in all different areas. Builders and construction workers in Virginia are beginning to construct sturdier homes and buildings. Not that the buildings were not safe before, but now they are specially designed to withstand stronger storms. Also, when developing these new homes builders are using greener alternatives. These greener options are in practice and material.

Observing a growing demand, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has began stocking vital household items incase of a storm. The idea to begin receiving necessities was formed after several tornadoes crashed through Virginia in February. In January, during winter storm Jonas Virginia was hit the hardest compared to surrounding states having received over 40 inches of snow. The DOABC will also be providing transportation assistance for those impacted by disasters in Virginia, and repair and help reconstruct underinsured homes.