Child found: Loaded gun, disguises found in mother’s car, police said

Child found: Loaded gun, disguises found in mother’s car, police said

[Photo: Stafford County Sheriff’s Office]

Two children have been returned to their father due to multiple law enforcement agencies work after an abduction on Tuesday, March 21, 2023, in Stafford County.

At 3:30 p.m., deputies responded to a call of parental abduction. Rosa Gregg, 32, of Virginia Beach, picked up her two children from Stafford Elementary School. Gregg had an active child protective order from Virginia Beach, stating she was not allowed contact with the children without supervision.

Information from Child Protective Services in Virginia Beach indicated Gregg could threaten her children’s safety, as the sheriff’s office states.

During the investigation, deputies learned Gregg might be heading to Rocky Mount, N.C. As an Amber Alert was being implemented in Virginia and North Carolina, Detective J.G. Wright traveled to Rocky Mount to join up with a U.S. Marshals Task Force to locate Gregg.

This morning, March 22, police found Gregg in Rocky Mount at a Quality Inn. At 4:32 a.m., the Stafford sheriff’s office received confirmation Gregg was in custody and the children were safe. During a search inventory of her vehicle, multiple wigs and other disguises were located, as well as a loaded firearm, police said.

Both children were reunited with their father. Currently, Gregg is being charged with two counts of abduction across state lines; however, more charges are pending. She is incarcerated in North Carolina without bond pending extradition to Virginia. an investigation is ongoing, police said.

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Richmond’s UNOS loses monopoly on organ transplantation

Richmond’s UNOS loses monopoly on organ transplantation

Surge in warmth coming Thursday

The federal government will break up the contract to oversee organ transplantation in the United States, a blow to the Richmond-based United Network for Organ Sharing, which has been the contract’s sole operator for almost 40 years. 

In an announcement Wednesday, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which oversees UNOS, said it would reform, modernize and bring transparency to the transplantation of kidneys, livers and other organs. 

The split comes after years of criticism toward UNOS and a Congressional investigation in which critics said UNOS’ technology is out of date, the number of transplanted organs falls short of expectation and that UNOS failed to discipline its struggling member organizations.

Those missteps have led to patient deaths and an increased call for care, five U.S. senators said in a hearing last year. 

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“For too long it’s been clear that UNOS has fallen short of the requirements for this contract and the expectations of Americans waiting for a transplant,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Wednesday in a statement. “Today’s announcement is a big victory for families across the country who have been fighting for a more effective organ procurement and transplantation system.”

In 1986, UNOS won the first federal contract to manage organ transplantation in the country. It has won every contract since, but the contract expires this year. The deal is worth $6.5 million annually for UNOS.

Located on North Fourth Street in downtown, UNOS has 450 employees, according to its website. The nonprofit welcomes a competitive bidding process, said Anne Paschke, a UNOS spokesperson. 

“We believe we have the experience and expertise required to best serve the nation’s patients and to help implement HRSA’s proposed initiative,” Paschke said. 

UNOS names interim CEO amid Congressional investigation

As part of its investigation, the Senate Finance Committee recommended the management of organ transplantation be split into five contracts: policy development, compliance, patient safety monitoring, IT infrastructure and logistics. 

Molly McCarthy, a three-time kidney transplant recipient and vice chair of UNOS’ patient advisory committee, said numerous organizations inside and outside organ transplantation could vie for these contracts. Any number of large technology providers in the U.S. could improve upon UNOS’ IT infrastructure, and even online retail giant Amazon could improve its logistics. 

“You don’t have to have an MD to run most of the parts of the business,” McCarthy said. 

Other organizations that handle living kidney donation, such as the National Kidney Donation Organization, could handle policy development. 

U.S. senators rip Richmond-based UNOS for mismanagement of organ transplantation

HRSA also said it will modernize the IT system on which organ transplantation depends. Diane Brockmeier, the CEO of Mid-America Transplant, a regional organ procurement organization, said last summer that UNOS’ software is slow and out of date. The White House’s United States Digital Services issued a report criticizing UNOS’ technological capabilities, saying staffers enter data by hand, leading to error. 

Brian Shepard, who resigned as CEO of UNOS last year, defended UNOS’s technology in August, saying it is operational almost 100% of the time. 

On Wednesday, UNOS said it is committed to working with the federal government and others “to assist in carrying out these reforms and to do our part to improve how we serve America’s organ donors, transplant patients and their families.”

Logistical errors plague organ transplantation. After an organ is removed from a recently deceased donor, there’s no guarantee it will arrive in the body of a needy patient.

One in four kidneys taken from a donor never makes it to a recipient, Dr. Jayme Locke, head of transplantation at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, testified before Congress. Kidneys aren’t always tracked during transportation. One arrived to Locke with tire marks on its package. Another was left overnight in the Atlanta airport. Others arrive unusable, the victim of a botched biopsy.

UNOS offers a tracking system, but some organ procurement organizations opted out, finding it too expensive or too inefficient. 

A Kaiser Health News investigation in 2020 found that UNOS is 15 times more likely to damage an organ in transit than an airline is to damage luggage. 

In the past three decades, nearly 250 patients have developed a disease because they received infected organs, leading to 70 deaths, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said in August. 

Senators have criticized UNOS’ inability to discipline the member organizations that procure organs. UNOS oversees 57 regional organ procurement organizations, and a third of them in 2022 were failing to meet standards, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. But UNOS rarely disciplines those organizations.

Brian Shepard, who resigned as CEO of UNOS last year, told Congress that UNOS’ job is to improve those organizations, not discipline them. That’s CMS’ duty, he said. 

On Wednesday, HRSA said it plans to strengthen accountability and performance in organ transplantation. UNOS stands with HRSA and shares those goals, Paschke said. 

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Richmond's Max's on Broad announces restaurant closure

Richmond's Max's on Broad announces restaurant closure

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — After nearly 10 years of service, Max’s on Broad has announced the restaurant is closing its doors.

“After almost ten years in service, we have decided to close our doors on April 1,” the restaurant said in the closing announcement Wednesday afternoon.

The two-story, patioed restaurant sits at the cusp of Jackson Ward, as its name states, right off Broad Street.

With its modern French-inspired menu, Max’s categorized dinner options with terminology such as “Hors D’Oeuvres” for appetizers, “Fruits De Mer” for seafood and “Plats Especial” for specialties. Guests could look forward to finding escargot, mussels, steak frites, duck breast, pear and goat cheese salad, pasta danbryan, braised short rib and more on their menus. The near-veteran Richmond restaurant fully embodied its slogan: “European dining in the heart of downtown Richmond.”

In addition to an expansive dinner menu, Max’s also offered brunch and exclusive menus for holidays. And for almost 10 years, it all worked. So much so, that in 2022, Max’s on Broad made the Tripadvisor list of highest-rated brunch restaurants in Richmond.

Max's on Broad
Coffee and beignets at Max’s on Broad (Photo: Kassidy Hammond/8News)

“We want to thank our loyal customers and our talented team for their support over the years,” Max’s said in a statement. “We have made many memories here, and we will cherish them always.”

The restaurant was also featured as one to visit during Richmond Restaurant Week as it returned for the event’s 21st year in 2022.

“We wish you all the best in the future. Thanks RVA,” the restaurant ended.

Max’s is continuing to welcome guests for service until the restaurant closes on April 1. If you’re worried about parking downtown, the restaurant does offer valet.

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Gov. Youngkin appoints new superintendent for Virginia Department of Education

Gov. Youngkin appoints new superintendent for Virginia Department of Education

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Glenn Youngkin has appointed Tennessee Chief Academic Officer Lisa Coons as Virginia’s 27th Superintendent of Public Instruction.

In an announcement made Wednesday, March 22, Youngkin announced that Coons would begin her new position on Monday, April 17.

“I am honored that Governor Youngkin has selected me to serve as Virginia’s superintendent of public instruction in collaboration with Secretary Guidera,” Coons said. “The governor has set a bold academic agenda that puts students first and empowers families to help set priorities for their children. We have an opportunity in Virginia to be the country’s best state for education, and we’ll achieve that vision through partnerships with families, educators and school division leaders.”

Youngkin also announced the appointment of Goochland County Superintendent Jeremy Raley as the Virginia Department of Education’s new Chief of Staff. In a separate announcement, he also reported that Dale Sturdifen had been appointed to the board of education.

“I am grateful to appoint this talented group of individuals to important positions across the Commonwealth,” Youngkin said. “I look forward to seeing the work they do in the service of Virginia.”

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Va. Rep. Don Beyer returns to school more than 50 years after college graduation

Va. Rep. Don Beyer returns to school more than 50 years after college graduation

“In some ways, I’m just catching up at the age of 72,” Virginia Congressman Don Beyer said on going back to school to study fields closely aligned with artificial intelligence at George Mason University.

For Northern Virginia Congressman Don Beyer, it’s never too late to go back to school. At 72 years old, Beyer — who represents Arlington, Alexandria City, Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County — is a part-time student at George Mason University.

“I’m pursuing a graduate degree in computer science with emphasis on machine learning, and according to George Mason University, that’s the closest to quote unquote artificial intelligence,” said Beyer, a 1972 graduate of Williams College in Massachusetts.

He said that he’s always loved learning and that many family and friends have graduate degrees.

“So, in some ways, I’m just catching up at the age of 72,” Beyer said.

Northern Virginia Congressman Don Beyer doing his classwork with the help of a classmate at George Mason University. (Courtesy George Mason University)

His area of study is no cakewalk, and before tackling some computer science classes in the fall, he’s deep into building some required credits.

“It turned out I needed about seven prerequisites, things I hadn’t taken in college or literally had not taken since high school. So I’ve been knocking those off — calculus, multi variable calculus, I’m in the middle of discrete mathematics right now,” said Beyer.

The congressman is a member of the United States Congressional Joint Economic Committee and the House Artificial Intelligence Caucus, which had about six members last year and swelled to 40 this year. Beyer believes the caucus may draw as many as 100 members by this summer.

“One of the big problems for Congress, and congresses around the world, is trying to figure out how do we put guardrails in place? What are the kinds of regulations that are needed? And right now, I’m pretty humble about it,” he said.

“We know so little about the potential. We don’t really know what to guard against yet.”

Beyer’s studies could provide helpful, expert insights on Capitol Hill as Congress tackles the fast-developing technological issue of artificial intelligence, its applications and the potential loss of human jobs that could result from the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence.

For now, like many students who are also holding down full-time jobs, the Northern Virginia congressman finds himself burning the candle at both ends.

“I’m getting up earlier and I’m staying up later. And sadly, my wife is usually sound asleep by the time I come in after my math homework,” Beyer said.

The congressman hopes to complete his studies toward a graduate degree in computer science within three years.

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County board approves lower-than-advertised pay raises, its first in eight years

County board approves lower-than-advertised pay raises, its first in eight years

SEIU Virginia 512 Fairfax President Tammie Wondong advocates for better worker compensation at a public hearing on proposed Board of Supervisors pay raises (via Fairfax County)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will get its first salary increase in eight years, starting next January.

The current board voted 8-2 last night (Tuesday) to raise the pay to $123,283 for a supervisor position and to $138,283 for the chairman — slightly lower than the ranges that were proposed on March 7.

Based on staff calculations, the approved increase for board members is in line with what general county employees received, on average, in merit and market rate adjustments since the board last got a raise in 2015, according to Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust.

“Supervisor compensation should be set at a level that would enable anyone to serve regardless of personal circumstances. To advance that goal, I think, is appropriate,” Foust said before putting the motion up for a vote.

The vote came after a public hearing that lasted over two hours, with some speakers becoming emotional as they shared stories of how they’ve struggled with the area’s rising cost-of-living or how employee vacancies and hiring challenges have affected county services, from parks to support for foster care families.

Aside from one Braddock District resident who suggested they would “not be out of line,” considering inflation over the past eight years, all the speakers voiced opposition to the originally proposed raises that could’ve increased supervisor salaries up to $130,000 and the chairman’s up to $145,000.

“Too many are just getting by, and others are on the verge of falling into crisis,” Carolyn Bivens said. “Respectfully, in my opinion, the case has not been made for making the Board of Supervisors positions full time. More importantly, a 35 to 45% increase would be viewed as tone-deaf in this environment.”

Some said they support the board getting pay raises, but the amounts advertised were “insulting” when the county is only proposing 2% market rate adjustments for workers in its next budget, rather than the 5% that was forecast.

Other jurisdictions in Virginia are advertising MRA increases of up to 6-9%, according to Fairfax Workers Coalition Executive Director David Lyons.

He acknowledged that Virginia law requires a different process for adjusting the compensation of elected officials than for other public employees, but the proposal created a perception “that you care more about yourselves than you do your workers.”

“What we do have is a shortage of human service workers. We have a shortage of cops. We have a shortage in solid waste collection that is causing the county to contract out good jobs,” he said. “And in the case of all these jobs, citizens will suffer as the vacancies grow, as the quality drops and as real experience keeps going out the door. That’s why this proposal struck people as wrong.”

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity said board raises would be “outrageous” when the county is also dealing with employee retention and recruitment challenges as well as surging taxes and inflation.

“We need to prioritize our spending and protect critical county services, not fund board raises,” Herrity said.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn also voted against the motion. When asked for comment, his office said his previously publicized stance that the board shouldn’t get a pay increase exceeding the cumulative MRAs given to employees hasn’t changed.

Virginia’s system of having board members determine their own raises during election years results in “a painful process,” Chairman Jeff McKay said. Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross, who will retire after this year, said it “would be a good idea” to increase board salaries annually based on a formula like other county employees, as suggested by one speaker.

Multiple board members stated that they’re committed to improving compensation for county workers in the budget, presenting a tough balancing act as they also look to lower the real estate tax rate.

“While the vote tonight must be decoupled from that larger budget conversation, rest assured that many of us will continue to fight for our employees while working to try to reduce the impact of our limited funding avenues that currently relies on our residential landowners in Fairfax County,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said.

Public hearings on the fiscal year 2024 budget will be held April 11-13. A final plan will be adopted on May 9.

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