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Virginia high court says Charlottesville can remove Confederate statues

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Virginia high court says Charlottesville can remove Confederate statues

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Virginia’s highest court ruled Thursday that the city of Charlottesville can take down two statues of Confederate generals, including one of Robert E. Lee that became the focus of a violent white nationalist rally in 2017.

The state Supreme Court overturned a Circuit Court decision in favor of a group of residents who sued to block the city from taking down the Lee statue and a nearby monument to fellow Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Charlottesville’s city council voted to remove both.

White supremacist and neo-Nazi organizers of the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville said they went to the city to defend the statue of Lee. They clashed with counterprotesters before a man plowed his car into a crowd of people, killing a woman.

The Jackson statue was erected in Jackson Park in 1921 and the Lee statue was erected in Lee Park in 1924. In 1918, the city had accepted a resident’s offer to donate land for parks for both statutes.

City officials praised the ruling in a statement Thursday and said they plan to redesign the park spaces where the statues are located “in a way that promotes healing and that tells a more complete history of Charlottesville.”

Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker thanked the community “for their steadfastness and perseverance over the past five years. For all of us, who were on the right side of history, Bravo!”

In Thursday’s decision, State Supreme Court Justice Bernard Goodwyn said both statues were erected long before a 1997 state law that barred local governments from removing them.

He wrote that the law should not be applied retroactively; those seeking to keep the statues in place had argued the legislature’s obvious intent was to do just that.

The 1997 law “did not provide the authority for the City to erect the Statues, and it does not prohibit the City from disturbing or interfering with them,” Goodwyn wrote.

The state Supreme Court also ruled that the circuit court erred in ordering the city to pay $365,000 in plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs.

S. Braxton Puryear, one of the attorneys for the residents who sued, said he hadn’t read the ruling yet and couldn’t immediately comment on it. Frederick W. Payne, a Charlottesville lawyer who was listed as the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, also declined comment Thursday.

The Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., and The Monument Fund, Inc., also were plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed against the city in March 2017.

University of Virginia law Richard Schragger, who specializes in the intersection of constitutional law and local government law, said he took the position early in the litigation that the law didn’t apply to the Charlottesville statues. He expects Thursday’s decision to be the final word in the long-running case since he doesn’t see any grounds for a challenge under federal law.

“It has just taken a very long time for this to be resolved,” Schragger said. “I think the circuit court took probably too long to make make its rulings.”

The 1997 law that barred local governments from removing Confederate statues was repealed in 2020, after Democrats gained control of the General Assembly in the 2019 elections. Since then, local governments across the state have removed statues that stood for a century or more.

In Richmond, city officials removed numerous statues on the city’s famed Monument Avenue after they became a focal point of racial justice protests last summer. But a statue of Lee has not yet been removed; a lawsuit is now in front of the state Supreme Court to determine whether the statue, which sits on state property and is subject to an 1890 deed that purports to restrict its removal, can be taken down.

The 2020 law does impose some requirements on local governments seeking to remove a statue, like holding a public hearing and offering the statue to a museum or historical society for possible relocation. In Thursday’s ruling, the judges indicate in a footnote that they are making their ruling based on the old law.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said he determined nearly four years ago that the law purporting to block removal of Confederate statues did not apply retroactively and “was not the blanket prohibition that its proponents had made it out to be.” Thursday’s ruling “confirmed that we were right,” Herring added in a statement.

“I have worked hard to help remove poisonous Confederate propaganda from our publicly-owned spaces, because I believe it glorifies a false history and sends a dangerous and divisive message about who and what we value,” he said.

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Millennials can now afford homeownership, causing a shortage

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Millennials can now afford homeownership, causing a shortage

So close, and yet so far. 

As various factors finally make homeownership attainable for frequently maligned millennials, a new hurdle has appeared: Not enough houses to go around. 

According to recent findings by investment bank Jefferies, younger millennials between ages 25 and 29 are increasingly buying their first pads, and 30- to 34-year-olds are doing so at even higher rates, Insider reported. 

The only problem is there aren’t enough starter homes available, an issue that’s existed since before the coronavirus pandemic and is a result of profit-seeking real-estate investors buying the pads, increasingly expensive construction costs and more restrictive zoning rules. 

Despite being much less economically well-off than previous generations were at their age, millennials in fact led home-buying in 2020, significantly motivated by the pandemic. According to an Apartment List’s Homeownership report, 40 percent of the age group now own homes, while a Clever Real Estate survey notes that 30 percent started house-hunting earlier than planned due to COVID-19. 

But unless contractors can somehow quickly construct 2.5 million homes — the amount America is short on, according to Jefferies — in the next year, millennials may be left holding yet another form of unfortunate financial cards. 

In another recent real estate boom significantly inspired by the pandemic, sales of homes built more than 100 years ago rose by 16 percent in 2020 in the tri-state area compared to last year, with a median sale price of $236,000, The Post reported earlier this month. 

Not booming during that same period, however, were New York City pads, which saw a 6 percent overall sales decline. That trend has a few notable exceptions, however, including Brooklyn townhouses — for which demand is relatively sky-high.

“I have seen more demand for brownstones, too, especially in Brooklyn, where the market seems to be on fire. There is more demand for properties with outdoor space, and bigger apartments where buyers can carve out home office space as well,” Melissa Cohn, an executive mortgage banker at William Raveis Mortgage, told The Post this month.

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Scientific American joins trend, will call climate change ‘climate emergency’

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Scientific American joins trend, will call climate change ‘climate emergency’

Scientific American has joined the growing list of news outlets who are upgrading the term climate change to a “climate emergency.” In its warning, SA compares climate change to someone losing their breath and being rushed to the hospital in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The planet is heating up way too fast. It’s time for journalism to recognize that the climate emergency is here,” SA writes in their statement on Tuesday.

The statement, co-authored by Columbia Journalism Review, the Nation, the Guardian, Noticias Telemundo, Al Jazeera, Asahi Shimbun and La Repubblica, insists that the word “emergency” best describes the current predicament.

“Why ’emergency’? Because words matter. To preserve a livable planet, humanity must take action immediately. Failure to slash the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will make the extraordinary heat, storms, wildfires and ice melt of 2020 routine and could ‘render a significant portion of the Earth uninhabitable,’” warned the January Scientific American article.

The groups insist their take is based on science, not politics. But skeptics observe that the climate terms just appear to be changing with the wind.

Climate change is also being blamed by outlets like MSNBC for the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. According to anchor Ayman Mohyeldin, climate change is urging migrants to make their way into the U.S. because natural disasters are “making the farmland and agricultural base … that much harder to sustain the economic needs of a country that has 17 million people.” 

President Biden has signed several climate change executive orders and promised aggressive spending on that front during his campaign. Conservative concerns over Biden’s approach were compounded with his nomination of Deb Baaland for interior secretary, due to her sponsorship of the far-left Green New Deal and endorsement of a fracking ban.

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Fireball captured passing ‘exceptionally close’ to Earth

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Fireball captured passing ‘exceptionally close’ to Earth

Well, that was too close for comfort. 

A fireball that streaked across the sky Monday was so close to Earth that the American Meteor Society received 259 reports and nine videos of its celestial sprint. In Grand Bahama, residents didn’t only see it, but heard a sonic boom, the Guardian reported. 

CBS12 reporter Jay O’Brien was recording a Facebook live story for the local news outlet when he saw it race through the heavens and seemingly disappear into a blaze of blue.

“WOAH! Big flash and streak across sky in West Palm Beach. Happened moments ago while we were on Facebook Live,” he tweeted. “Working to figure out what it was.” 

NASA astronomer Bill Cooke told the Palm Beach Post, it was a nearly 900-pound asteroid fragment entering Earth’s atmosphere at 38,000 mph and disintegrating 23 miles above the Atlantic. In the process of breaking apart, Cooke said, the meteor generated the energy equivalent of 14 tons of TNT. 

“These things just come at random,” Cooke added. “The atmosphere will break apart anything smaller than a football field.” 

Meteor experts refer to Monday’s fireball — which was documented by countless dashcams and doorbell cameras — as a “bolide,” referring to the fact that it explodes upon entry to Earth’s atmosphere. Gianluca Masi, of VirtualTelescope.eu, told the publication it passed 12,430 miles from Earth’s surface, which is considered “exceptionally close.” 

“This is a special type of fireball that ends with a large burst of light and often a boom sound,” Mike Hankey, American Meteor Society operations manager, told the Palm Beach Post.  

This particular one was actually quite small — about 2 feet in diameter — meaning it technically does not qualify as an asteroid, but rather only an asteroid fragment, or meteoroid.

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