Welcome to today’s edition of the Dogwood Daily. We’ve got all the Virginia news you need to know coming right up.

But First…

Are you one of the 66% of Americans who favors marijuana legalization? Are you frustrated by Virginia Republicans blocking marijuana decriminalization and legalization bills? Do you want to learn more about the “Martha Stewart of cannabis?” If so, check out this dope (pun intended) piece in Charlottesville Weekly.

5 Things you need to know today

  1. Julian Assange arrested in UK; charged in Eastern District of Virginia – The United States is seeking to extradite Julian Assange, the infamous founder of WikiLeaks, who was arrested by British police on Thursday. After spending more than six years in asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Assange’s asylum status was terminated by Ecuador, prompting the arrest. Prosecutors in the Eastern District then unsealed a charge that accuses Assange of agreeing to help then-Army analyst Chelsea Manning hack into the Department of Defense’s computer network in 2010. Manning, who had already given WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified records by that point, is currently in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury in the Assange case. While Assange is reviled by almost everyone, some worry that prosecuting him could set a dangerous precedent.
  2. Fairfax County considers legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation – According to a new poll, six-in-ten likely voters in Fairfax County approve of the county using funds to help immigrants in deportation proceedings. Now, the county is considering creating a taxpayer-funded legal defense fund to do just that. About a third of the county’s 1.1 million residents are immigrants, and as of late 2018, about 12,000 of them were in deportation proceedings. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, having a lawyer increases a detained immigrant’s odds of avoiding deportation by more than ten. Advocates argue that a proposed $200,000 pilot program aimed at assisting low-income immigrants – both undocumented and those in the country legally – would give the county a chance to be a leader in the region and hold firm against the Trump administration’s war on immigrants.
  3. Spotsylvania County approves largest part of solar farm project – After months of contentious debate, the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors voted 5-2 to approve a big section of a planned solar farm that would be the largest project east of the Rocky Mountains. The remaining two sites of the proposed project will be voted on Thursday evening, but the already-approved site makes up more than 80% of the entire 6,350-acre project. The project, which will create hundreds of jobs and millions in economic revenue, was opposed by a group of residents who were concerned the project would harm the rural quality of the area, drive down property values and harm the local environment. Supporters of the project, including the local Sierra Club chapter, argued the economic and environmental benefits of the project make it a win-win.
  4. Community colleges fight back against student hunger and homelessness – Imagine having to choose between feeding yourself, putting a roof over your head or buying books for college classes. For many Virginia students, this horrifying choice is a reality. Ten to 15% of students are homeless and between 33% and 50% of college students are facing food insecurity. This crisis prompted over 800 Virginia community college faculty members to gather on Wednesday to discuss the problem and how to solve it. They got some help from Anthem Blue Cross, which is donating $100,000 to 14 rural community colleges to expand their food pantries. The grant is expected to support almost 9,000 families, but the larger crisis will require significant legislation to really turn things around.
  5. Virginia reveals new online environmental conservation map – Ever wondered if you live in or near an area that Virginia considers a high-priority conservation area? For most people, the answer will be no, but if you ever did want to check it out, now you can. ConserveVirginia, a new strategy from Gov. Ralph Northam, shared a new online map that identifies 6.3 million acres in the state as high-priority conservation areas. The map will inform property deals, land-use planning, outdoor recreation, and environmental protection. So if you need another way to procrastinate at work and Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest aren’t doing it for you…consider playing around with the map.