- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 3, 2009

DISTRICT

Panda house closed in pregnancy watch

The National Zoo’s panda house is closing temporarily while officials monitor Mei Xiang to determine whether she is pregnant.

Animal keepers reported the giant panda was spending more time in her den and cradling objects as she would a cub. But staffers don’t know whether she is pregnant or experiencing a false pregnancy.

The zoo cautions that pandas can undergo changes associated with pregnancy when they ovulate but fail to conceive. There’s no reliable pregnancy test for pandas, and the mystery can continue until the last minute.

Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated in January with semen from Tian Tian, the zoo’s giant male panda. A recent change in hormone levels indicates her reproductive cycle will soon end.

MARYLAND

BURTONSVILLE

Firefighters injured in apartment blaze

Authorities said three firefighters were injured while battling a blaze at an apartment complex in Montgomery County.

Fire department spokesman Capt. Oscar Garcia said 15 units were damaged in the Saturday morning fire at the Woodlake Apartments on Castle Boulevard in the Burtonsville area.

Capt. Garcia said a female resident was taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. He said one firefighter from Montgomery County and a firefighter from Prince George’s County suffered minor burns, and a second Montgomery firefighter was hit in the head by falling debris.

Capt. Garcia said the cause of the blaze was under investigation. Damage was estimated at $1.3 million.

FREDERICK

O’Malley, Brown to seek re-election

Gov. Martin O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown plan to run for re-election next year.

Mr. Brown disclosed those plans Friday night at a gathering of Frederick County Democrats. “The fight that we started is not over. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done,” he said.

Mr. Brown was the keynote speaker at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner, sponsored by the Frederick County State Democratic Central Committee.

Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Brown were elected with about 53 percent of the vote in 2006, defeating incumbent Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Voters in Frederick, however, favored Mr. Ehrlich by a wide margin.

VIRGINIA

LYNCHBURG

Liberty student nabbed in sting

Liberty University student Jamison Dean Gibbs, 22, of Acworth, Ga., is behind bars after being arrested in connection with a sting to catch Internet sexual predators.

State police arrested Mr. Gibbs on Friday at the conservative Christian school founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. He was charged with attempting to take indecent liberties with a child and using an electronic device to solicit a juvenile.

Stafford County Sheriff’s spokesman Bill Kennedy said Detective Darryl Wells pretended to be a 13-year-old girl from Fredericksburg during online conversations with Mr. Gibbs that began in October. Mr. Kennedy said Mr. Gibbs tried several times to set up meetings with the girl.

Mr. Gibbs is being held without bond pending transfer to Stafford County.

NORFOLK

Homeowners sue over Chinese drywall

Five Hampton Roads homeowners are seeking more than $5 million in a lawsuit filed against a local developer, a distributor and a Chinese drywall manufacturer.

The homeowners said the companies were negligent for selling the drywall and not warning customers that it was defective. They are seeking class-action status for the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Norfolk.

Attorney Richard Serpe said his clients are upset that the drywall has made their homes unfit to live in. People in several states have complained that it emits a corrosive gas that damages electrical systems and causes respiratory illness.

An attorney for Norfolk-based Venture Supply would not comment on the lawsuit. The company has said it imported enough of the drywall to build more than 300 homes.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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