We’ve seen the play before and knew the ending before the Virginia State Crime Commission even began its gun hearings. Nothing has changed. Over two days of testimony on Monday and Tuesday, state lawmakers heard the same speeches from the same familiar groups. Advocates for gun control pleaded for someone to do something. They pushed for legislation on universal background checks, bans on assault-type weapons and for “red flag” laws. Gun rights proponents stood their ground, arguing against infringing the rights of citizens. They introduced data suggesting Virginia isn’t actually experiencing a gun violence crisis. Commission members dutifully gathered up all the presented reports, research and opinions and promised to compile it all in a report to be released at some ambiguous future date. Don’t look for anything until the Nov. 5 elections are over. If then.


While the legislature ignores present-day issues, the National Endowment for the Humanities is helping to capture them. U.S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin, D-4th, announced on Monday that the independent federal agency dedicated to supporting the humanities has awarded two grants to Virginia organizations. One grant, of $159,551, will go to the American Civil War Museum Foundation to pay for a summer program for the professional development of teachers. The other grant, of $324,958, is going to the Library of Virginia to restore and digitize American newspapers. McEachin noted he was “thrilled to see these monies come into Virginia. As we all know, the Civil War is an important but sometimes difficult and fraught, subject to teach. Teachers, like everyone else, bring the biases of their upbringing and location. This program can help sift through that so the legitimate historical information can be imparted and then shared with students.” It’s no secret many newspapers are struggling and others have folded. The grant to the state library will help ensure those records are preserved.


What started as a joke on Facebook has reached the outer limits of reality. The event known as “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” started last month as a tongue-in-cheek venture organized by a handful of UFO enthusiasts. The organizers want to storm the top-secret U.S. Air Force facility known as Area 51 to “see them aliens.” Conspiracy theorists say the military has kept extraterrestrials hidden there since 1947. More than 1.5 million people have responded that they will attend the mysterious event being held Sept. 20-22. Fearing that the area could be overrun with attendees, officials in the Nevada county of Lincoln, where the base is located, are teaming their meager resources with neighboring counties and the state. “Oh, we’re taking this seriously,” Lincoln County Commission Chairman Varlin Higbee told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. On Aug. 21, the county declared a state of emergency. In a tiny town with one already-overbooked six-room motel, no gas station and few other amenities, officials worry the arrival of as many as 40,000 people could become a nightmare scenario. And the Air Force isn’t laughing either. They’ve issued a simple warning about attempts to overrun the base: “Don’t go there.” The Facebook page says with enough people running like ninjas en masse, “we can move faster than their bullets.” No, they can’t. Several years ago, cartoonist Bill Watterson remarked that “the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.” He might be on to something.


And speaking of keeping things out, the U.S. is looking for Ebola screeners to place at major airports. As the deadly Ebola virus continues to make its way across afflicted regions of Africa, federal officials are concerned that travelers from the troubled regions could bring the disease here. Caduceus Healthcare has posted listings for “EMT, Ebola Airport Screener” positions on Careerbuilder.com and LinkedIn. The job description is fairly basic: “To screen passengers that have traveled back from Ebola-affected nations. This will include checking vital signs, temperature and having passengers fill out questionnaires. This will include tracking and reporting all recovered results.” The yearlong Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to spread. The epidemic has killed 1,808 people out of 2,765 confirmed cases this year. Although a vaccine is available, attempts to contain the outbreak have been repeatedly hampered by armed militias.

— Robin Beres

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