Outside the Novahood


Who killed Cock Robin? I, said the Sparrow, in the c. 1770 poem, before others confessed, including the Fly, Duck, Beetle, Owl, Rook, Lark, Linnet, Dove, Kite, Crow, Thrush, and Bull. Sometimes real life mirrors fiction.

In February, nearly 55 American robins were found dead at Radford University in Radford, VA. Now, that number has increased to 80, according to the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke. The Center further said that the birds all tested negative for avian flu.

Authorities say they are still waiting for toxicology reports to confirm the cause but suspect that ingesting fermented berries caused intoxication and subsequent alcohol poisoning. The Center says that freezing and thawing cycles similar to those that have been present this winter can cause berries to ferment.

At this time, patrols of students at Radford University have been directed to check the campus for survivors or deceased birds several times a day so that the center can try to save more birds.

Who killed cock robin? The fermented berries have taken the Fifth.


“Agricultural workers are among the most vulnerable essential workers our laws protect,” said a Department of Labor manager. Following a Labor investigation and an administrative law judge’s order, 20 temporary agricultural workers who traveled from Mexico to help provide pumpkins, Christmas trees, and produce for Mid-Atlantic consumers will be paid $19,988 in back wages by an Independence, VA, farm. The farm will also pay $36,000 in civil penalties.

Reyes Nature Greens LLC hired the workers under the H-2A temporary agricultural workers visa program, which allows employers to hire temporary, nonimmigrant workers for seasonal agricultural work. The farm failed to comply with the program’s requirements: (1) it did not pay the offered and required wage rate, missed payrolls, and made no payments during certain weeks; (2) did not provide a copy of the work contract, pay statements with all required information, or display required H-2A posters; (3) did not provide or secure housing for workers and transportation between living quarters and the worksite without cost to the workers and did not comply with all applicable laws, safety, and health standards; and (4) did not guarantee workers’ employment hours of at least 75 percent of the workdays in the contract period.

To quote the Department: “This investigation underscores the department’s commitment to using all enforcement tools to protect the rights of people who work in the U.S. Other employers should use the outcome of this investigation as an opportunity to review their own practices to make sure they comply with the law and avoid [such] violations.” Indeed.

Have a nice holiday but pay those who make it possible.


Current NCAA policy allows trans women to compete on collegiate women’s sports teams after they have completed a full calendar year of testosterone-suppression treatment. This is not sitting well with some female college athletes, who claim that those born biologically male have strength and other physical advantages compared with those born female. This has become news recently as University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has won women’s swimming competitions. 

Virginia Tech swimmer and 2016 Olympian Reka Gyorgy has accused the NCAA of failing to “protect” its athletes by letting trans women compete. Gyorgy last week placed 17th in the preliminary 500-yard freestyle event at the NCAA’s championship meet in Atlanta, meaning she did not advance to the finals, as only the top 16 finishers are eligible to compete.

Gyorgy in her statement said she respects Thomas and is “convinced that she is no different than me,” though she repeatedly refers to herself and other cisgender female athletes as “biological women” — a term often used by anti-transgender activists to suggest that a trans person is not who they say they are. 

“She has pushed herself to the limit to be the best athlete she could be. She is doing what she is passionate about and deserves that right,” Gyorgy wrote about Thomas. “On the other hand, I would like to critique the NCAA rules that allow her to compete against us, who are biologically women” [emphasis added].

The athletic association’s policy is markedly more lax than that of USA Swimming, the sport’s national governing body, which earlier this year updated its guidelines to require trans women in elite competition to provide evidence that the concentration of testosterone in their blood has been less than 5 nanomoles per liter for at least 36 months.

Acceptance has all kinds of implications, and inevitably involves sacrifices by some. In a brave new world, we must all figure it out as we go.





Categories: CIVIL RIGHTS, Immigration, Issues, labor and unions, Local, National, State

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