State of women’s safety in the New River Valley

by Hannah Williams, Anthony Cusat –

In the United States, 81% of women report experiencing some sort of sexual harassment or assault in their lives. This can create the need to be extra cautious, making some areas without safety precautions inaccessible.

As such, areas in the New River Valley have seen the implementation of factors that create a more accessible environment for women while some still are lacking.

Legislation emerges for U.S. fashion industry

by Nicole Tutino –

Photo: Ekaterina Bolovtsova via

Laws can help enforce ethical and sustainable actions by fashion brands in their supply chain and distribution processes.

Garment factory conditions often conflict with workers’ safety, due to long working hours, health effects and unstable building structures. 

In 2022, the Garment Worker Protection Act was enacted in California. The state law prohibits the piece rate payment system which refers to wages distributed based on the number of apparel pieces a worker creates. Piece rate compensation often fails to provide garment workers with sufficient income.

Recently, The Business of Fashion reported that California-based manufacturers of apparel brands failed to meet the garment worker compensation requirements of the state’s laws. 

New York may join California with the state’s own fashion-related legislation.

Originally proposed in 2021, The Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act requires sustainability and ethical workplace practices for brands operating or selling products in New York.

According to The New York State Senate, the bill features “due diligence” requirements that detail solutions to combat unethical practices within the fashion industry impacting workers’ rights and the environment.

The section’s facets include supply chain transparency, which refers to the identification of suppliers used in apparel production to understand working conditions and the origins of materials used. Although the bill does not require all levels of suppliers to be completely reported, the increased legal supervision intends to restrict unethical actions.

Environmental requirements relate to fashion companies’ developing plans to restrict their involvement in climate change through limited greenhouse gas emissions and the disclosure of the brands’ emissions.

Fashion brands that receive an income of at least 100 million dollars each year will be required to adhere to the act’s guidelines. With about 900 apparel brands housed in New York City, the bill’s reach can be widespread. According to the New York Fashion Act, brands failing to comply with the bill can “be fined up to 2% of annual revenues.”

Patagonia, Eileen Fisher and Reformation, which are apparel brands known for valuing sustainable efforts, are among the supporters of the bill. 

Currently, the bill remains under review by the New York State Senate and General Assembly committees and will require the committees’, houses’ and governor’s approval prior to becoming a law.

While legislation for fashion sustainability shows growth, the laws’ effects are limited to a specific state. 

With more proposed environmental and worker protection legislation emerging in states, lawmakers begin creating a consistent methodology to identify unethical brands and create pathways to federal and global regulations.

Uncertain future of menstrual-tracking apps in Virginia

by Cyna Mirzai-

Photo credit: Burst

Almost one-third of women in the United States use a mobile app to track their periods. However, a bill to protect menstrual app data from search warrants failed the Virginia General Assembly in February, alarming abortion rights supporters for a future of post-Roe abortion restrictions. 

The state’s Democrat-controlled Senate passed a bill to prohibit the issuance of a warrant for the search and seizure of menstrual health data stored on electronic devices, allowing people to protect personal information about their menstrual health. According to AP News, the legislation passed with a 31-9 vote, with nine Republicans joining Democrats to send it to the House. Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who introduced a 15-week abortion ban early this year, tabled the bill through a procedural move in a Republican-controlled subcommittee.

Inspired by the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, introduced the legislation since current laws allow search warrants to be issued for access to all data stored on computers, computer networks and other electronic devices as long as there is a probable cause for a crime. 

Before the repeal of Roe v. Wade, an abortion could be performed up until the third trimester of a patient’s pregnancy in Virginia. Therefore, if a person stopped tracking their cycle on an app due to a terminated pregnancy, there would be no probable cause for a crime. However, as stricter abortion laws continue to pass in various states, these tracking apps can become the scene of a crime.  

Sen. Favola said her bill is straightforward and one of the shortest bills of the Senate’s season, per WUSA 9. She will wait until the election of a new General Assembly in 2023 to try for the bill again.

While this can remain an alarming time for many, there are still ways to protect one’s personal information. The Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance last year encouraging people to turn off location sharing and tracking activity across apps. Some tracking apps also state they do not share or sell data, but if weary, creating a personalized menstrual data tracker by using spreadsheets, digital planners or even paper planners will aid in concealing personal information.

Blacksburg town attorney speaks on The Sandman, Weirdoughs’ gridlock

by Ben Walls –

Larry Spencer, who serves as Blacksburg’s town attorney, says that Delaware business developer Joseph Boss has failed to properly provide necessary information for opening a bar and pizza restaurant named The Sandman and Weirdoughs, respectively.

According to Spencer, the spaces located at 202 North Main Street and 204 North Main Street in Blacksburg which used to house a Subway and Starbucks need an industrial facelift to meet the demand of the community members.

“(Boss) was planning on doing things that were more intense, like restaurant activities, because Subway and Starbucks don’t have big stoves or pizza ovens,” Spencer said. “There was going to have to be some changes and upgrades to the facility which building permits require.”

In his previous building permit applications submitted between summer 2021 and September 2022, Blacksburg denied Boss for reasons including not showing where lighting receptacles will be displayed in the business, not providing the total occupancy, not having the state health department approve his applications and not specifying whether he would install outdoor speakers.

Ultimately, Spencer says Boss failed to answer every question on his permit application until his second submission in September 2022.

“The issues that were coming out were pretty objective like, ‘you need to have this on your plan,” Spencer said. “Getting building permits–it’s not uncommon for someone to submit a set of plans and for them to be sent back.”

Meanwhile, Blacksburg has local and zoning critiques of Boss’s permit application including whether a grease trap and heavy-duty sinks in his restaurants were necessary.

Because permit applications are sent back frequently, Spencer says he can understand why Boss would be upset, but says he does not know why Boss has begun accusing the town manager–Chris Lawrence–as racist and announcing to file suit against the town.

Blacksburg, Va. – Main Street, a busy thoroughfare near Virginia Tech campus.

Boss submitted his latest permit application on March 16, but Blacksburg has not made any approvals for him to move forward. The process for the building officials to approve or deny applications is two or three weeks, but Spencer says the town is waiting for one more submission that he did not specify.

In an investigation that Spencer provided, town building officials visited the spaces on September 15 where they found moving companies and contractors working with power tools inside. The town eventually sent a “stop work order” to the developers and Boss’s landlord.

Spencer says he is not aware of any lawsuit, and the prosecuting attorneys have not contacted him.

Mental illness trends in the U.S.

by Anthony Cusat-

In the United States, mental health and mental illness are topics that have slowly become more accepted with 87% of American adults agreeing that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of during a 2019 poll.

As more and more people recognize the validity of mental illness, the number of people receiving treatment and diagnoses is also escalating. However, some mental illnesses are becoming increasingly common while others are seeing a dip in prevalence.

Whatever happened to savings bonds?

by Emaryi Williams –

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

According to AARP, savings bonds were really popular gifts “back in the day”, especially among grandparents. Savings bonds date back to 1935 when former president Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into legislation that the U.S. Department of the Treasury could sell them as a new type of security.

According to Treasury Directs, when you buy a savings bond you’re essentially “lend[ing] money to the U.S. government. In turn, the government agrees to pay that much money back later — plus additional money (interest).” The interest can only be earned for up to 30 years, and it can also be federally taxed.

There are three main types of savings bonds in the United States:

  1. Series E — These types of bonds were created in 1981 to help fund World War II. As of 1980, they are no longer being sold. While these would be out of date, they are still redeemable.
  2. Series EE — These bonds were created in 1990 to replace the Series E bond and were used as a way to help save and pay for college. These bonds earn different interest rates based off of when they were issued.
  3. Series I — These bonds were created in 1998 to help Americans save while protecting them against inflation. These bonds have a combination of a fixed rate and a semiannual inflation rate that reflects the consumer price index.

Now that you know the difference between savings bonds, you may still be wondering where they went, and why you may not see them anymore.

The answer is simple. They went online.

As of 2012, savings bonds were no longer printed on pieces of paper. To both purchase and redeem an online savings bond, you must go through Treasury Direct, which is maintained by the U.S. Treasury. The move to online was made to make bond purchases easier and more accessible using the internet.

Despite paper bonds being discontinued, you can still cash in paper bonds. You can even convert your paper bond into an electric one on Treasury Direct’s website, letting it mature longer online. According to Investopedia, another pro to switching to electronic bonds is that when you want to cash out an electronic bond, you can choose to only take a portion and keep the rest maturing. You cannot do that with a paper bond.

Rules about interest and taxes are still the same for both paper and electronic savings bonds, and they can be found on Treasury Direct’s website. There is also a tool available to help bondholders determine what their bond may be worth today.

Apartment hunting? 5 things to consider

by Emaryi Williams-

(Photos Source: Mastersenaiper/Pixabay)

As inflation rises in almost every aspect of American life, including housing, renting an apartment is starting to look unrealistic for some. According to Virginia Realtors, rental demand and prices for apartments are on the rise. Early preparation is important if you are thinking of finding an apartment.

In no particular order, here are five things to have or consider before renting: 

  1. Budget

According to Capital One, it is a general rule to have a job that pays three times your rent, and most landlords even require it for renting. This will be key in trying to set your budget. According to Citizens Bank, one common budget plan is the 50/30/20 Budget Rule, which divides your income into needs, wants and savings respectively.

  1. Savings

With the numerous upfront costs that accompany a newly acquired apartment like furniture and appliances, aspiring renters need to have money readily available. The exact amount of money is subjective to the potential apartment and additional charges, but Supermoney says that the average person should have $5,000 to $8,000 in their bank account before moving.

  1. Security deposit and application fees

To get through the application process, there are two main fees of which potential renters will need to be aware. According to Virginia tenant law, a landlord is required to charge tenants a security deposit, which is a maximum of two months’ rent. Potential renters will also need to make sure they are aware of the application fees. In Virginia, laws limit application fees to $50. 

  1. Credit score

Fixing a poor credit score cannot happen overnight, so making sure you have a good score is something you want to do well in advance of looking for a new apartment. According to Flex Finance Inc., the more competitive the market is, the higher your credit score will need to be with the following ranges:

  • Exceptional: 800 – 850
  • Very Good: 740 – 799
  • Good: 670 – 739
  • Fair: 580 – 669
  • Poor: 300 – 579

If you have a bad credit score, you may need to look into a co-signer.

  1. Required documents

According to Apartmentguide, there are standard documents that you will need to provide your potential landlord. Other than providing your social security number, you will need to provide proof of employment with paystubs/bank statements, a government-issued ID, vehicle registration (for a parking pass) and rental history.

Unearth the power of ‘Earthing’

by Kayla Frank–

Earth Day celebrates the accomplishments of environmental movements and raises awareness of the moral duties of protecting our environment. 

Photo of “person holding world globe facing mountain” by Porapak Apichodilok from retrieved April 4, 2023.

On Saturday, April 22, ways to honor Earth Day include picking up trash, planting trees, or even just going outside. Getting grounded is another way to engage with nature, but not the kind that comes from your parents or sends you to your room. 

Grounding, also referred to as “earthing,” involves direct skin contact with the Earth’s surface, like walking barefoot or sitting outside on the grass, sand, or dirt. Emerging yourself in a body of water can also be considered grounding.

Photo of “person in black leggings standing on rock” by PNW Production from Retrieved April 4, 2023.

Scientific research supports reductions in chronic pain, inflammation, and muscle damage, along with better sleep and improved moods when connecting with Earth’s surface electrons

Extra amounts of reactive oxygen species that contain atoms with unpaired electrons can create chaos in the body. Known as free radicals, these can aid in development of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and irritable bowel syndrome. 

Due to modern lifestyles that keep us inside, grounding can help restore our “electron deficiency,” realigning our primordial electric connection to Earth. Like our ancestors did for thousands of years, walking barefoot absorbs ions from the Earth’s surface, acting as antioxidants to improve our health. 

If going outside isn’t an option, there are other ways to unearth grounding. Alternatives range from grounding mats, sheets, blankets, socks, bands, and patches that are available from a range of sources. 

In an initial grounding experiment conducted by Clint Ober, the CEO of Earthing FX and innovator behind the grounding movement, Ober gathered 60 volunteers with chronic sleep and pain difficulties who were either grounded or sham-grounded during sleep. 

Grounding was through means of a conductive pad connected to a rod outside their bedroom. The results showed those who were grounded saw significant improvements in sleep and pain versus sham-grounded . 

Table of Ober’s grounding experiment from Ultimate Longevity LLC 2021, Grounding Research: Study Summaries. Retrieved April 4, 2023.

Remember to be intentional while earthing or grounding if you plan to take part this Earth Day. Earthing is a great way to connect with nature and reduce anxiety, but should be practiced often to achieve ample effects. 

On its way to becoming a massive movement worldwide, shed your shoes and get to grounding.

NRV overdoses surpass the Va. state average

by Savannah Webb-

The Virginia Department of Health released data suggesting that the New River Valley experienced an increase in visits to emergency departments (ED) for drug overdoses in 2022.

Overdoses spiked during the pandemic, but the state has since reported decreased overdose rates. Conversely, rates are steadily increasing in the New River Valley, with prescribed opioids causing a majority of overdoses.