Virginia poised to become the first southern state to ban the death penalty
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Virginia is poised to become the 23rd U.S. state—and first state in the South—to ban the death penalty after lawmakers on Monday approved legislation prohibiting the practice.

"We're dismantling the remnants of Jim Crow here in the New South. Abolishing the death penalty is another step on that journey," tweeted Democratic Del. Jay Jones, who's running for state attorney general.

Both chambers of the General Assembly passed earlier versions already this month. On Monday, the Senate passed the House bill in a 22-16 vote; the House then voted 57-43 on the measure to ban capital punishment. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has indicated his support for the measure.


As Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)—a former governor of Virginia and a co-sponsor of bicameral legislation to end the federal death penalty—wrote in a Friday op-ed at the Washington Post, "Virginia is the death penalty capital of the United States."

Beginning with the first execution under a colonial government in 1608, we have executed 1,390 people, more than any other state. Following the Supreme Court's decision restoring the death penalty in 1976, Virginia has executed more people than any state except Texas. And the painful history exposes the fundamental racism of capital punishment.

Kaine noted as an example that "even after the Civil War, when crimes such as rape were technically capital offenses for everyone, the ultimate punishment was used only against Black people. Fifty-six people were executed for rape or attempted rape in Virginia between 1908 and 1965—all were Black."

"Thankfully," Kaine wrote, "the repeal of the death penalty by its leading practitioner gives hope that work for justice is not in vain. Virginia's progress shows that it is possible for all."

Northam has previously indicated his backing of legislation to ban the death penalty, saying in a statement earlier this month that capital punishment is "fundamentally inequitable. It is inhumane. It is ineffective."

The governor further confirmed his support on Monday with a joint statement also signed by House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) and Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and released after both chambers passed the legislation.

"Thanks to the vote of lawmakers in both chambers, Virginia will join 22 other states that have ended use of the death penalty," the three Democrats said. "This is an important step forward in ensuring that our criminal justice system is fair and equitable to all."

Once the bill becomes law, the two men with still lingering death sentences, Anthony Juniper and Thomas Porter, will face life in prison without parole.

This article first appeared on Common Dreams. You can read it here.

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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