- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Panda cub aware of his father

Tai Shan is spending more time exploring his outdoor enclosure at the National Zoo and lounging away from his mother.

And the 7-month-old panda cub has shown signs of recognizing that another adult panda is often in another exercise yard just beyond the fence.

“He noticed his father over the weekend,” Lisa Stevens, the zoo’s assistant curator, said yesterday.

Papa Tian Tian’s enclosure and indoor pen are just a few feet away from the area where Tai Shan has lived with Mei Xiang since she gave birth July 9.

Zoo staffers have not permitted the cub and his father to be in the same enclosure.

“Although we know very little about what pandas do socially or behaviorally in the wild, there have been no observation of cubs in the proximity of adult males at this age,” Miss Stevens said.

As a result, there are no plans at the moment for an introduction.

Miss Stevens said the cub and his father have shown signs of an awareness of each other’s scents when they have been in an area that the veterinary staff uses for examining the animals.

“Pandas do communicate a lot of information by scent marking and leaving their scent on an object,” Miss Stevens said.

Man’s body found near elementary school

The body of a man was discovered by a passer-by yesterday morning behind a Northeast elementary school.

The body was found shortly before 8:30 a.m. in a park behind Benning Elementary School on 41st Street Northeast, just a block from the 6th District police station. The man had been shot once in the head.

Classes continued at the school, which authorities said was not in lockdown. But staff did work to keep the children away from the scene so police could investigate.

On Dec. 13, the body of a woman who had been shot was discovered lying on a path next to the playground behind Nalle Elementary School on 50th Street Southeast, barely a mile away from yesterday’s discovery.



Mixing Bowl work to close lanes

Drivers heading through the Mixing Bowl will run into more closings for the next few nights while crews install steel beams over the travel lanes.

All northbound lanes of Interstate 95 and southbound lanes of Interstate 395 at the Capital Beltway will be closed from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. tonight and tomorrow and from 9 p.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Saturday. The high-occupancy-vehicle lanes between Edsall Road and Franconia-Springfield Parkway also will be closed during those hours.

Those trying to reach the District and Tysons Corner will have to take the new I-95 north bridge to the Outer Loop of the Beltway and follow detour signs from the Eisenhower Avenue exit to turn around.

The Virginia Department of Transportation said the 7-mile detour may add 45 minutes to a trip, especially before midnight.


Couple stunned by $14,000 gas bill

When Ed and Linda Ebright opened their gas bill, they were more than surprised. They were stunned to see they owed more than $14,000.

The Ebrights’ bill from Columbia Gas of Virginia was $14,144.87, about 100 times more than the usual bill for their town house.

Mr. Ebright told the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star that it was enough to make him “freak out,” and he thought his wife was going to have a heart attack. A call to the gas company’s automated line did not help when it confirmed the whopping bill.

But a Columbia Gas spokesman said it was, of course, a mistake and that a way-out-of-the-ordinary bill like that should have been caught before being mailed.

The correct bill was $190.


Apartments powerless after electrical fire

More than 100 families were without power yesterday after an electrical fire at a high-rise apartment building, fire officials said.

The fire started about 9:30 p.m. Monday at Marina Towers Apartments at 501 Slaters Lane.

It could take up to a week to restore power to the one wing of the apartment building that was affected, said Alexandria Fire Department spokeswoman Jane Malik.

A warming center was set up for the residents of the 126 apartments at the nearby Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology, but officials said only one person took advantage of it. Most people decided to stay in their homes or with friends or family.

No one was hurt.


TV meteorologist admits heroin problem

A meteorologist for WSLS-TV has gone on the air to admit that he has had problems with heroin, a little more than a week after a second weather forecaster for the station was reported to have been found near death from an overdose of the drug.

“I just want to lay out there that I’ve had a past, made some bad decisions, with addictive-type substances, and for that I am really sorry. I’m ashamed,” Jamey Singleton said in an interview that the station first broadcast Friday and repeated over the weekend.

Mr. Singleton, 27, said that after undergoing treatment for addiction in December, he thinks that he has “put the beast to sleep.”

An Ohio man, meanwhile, faces federal charges of helping meteorologist Marc Lamarre, 36, obtain heroin. Mr. Singleton may be called to testify in the case, the station said. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office would not confirm Mr. Singleton’s involvement in the case.

Mr. Lamarre, who nearly died of an overdose Feb. 2, WSLS said, has been relieved of his duties. He told the station that he was “getting help.”

News director Shane Moreland said that Mr. Singleton still was employed because the company gave both him and Mr. Lamarre a second chance and that “Marc blew his second chance.” He said Mr. Singleton would not be on the air during the drug investigation.



Raises not forthcoming for elected officials

Maryland officials who are elected to new terms in November are not likely to receive any pay raises for the next four years.

A state Senate committee recommended yesterday that the salary for the governor and other statewide elected officials be frozen at current levels, and there was no opposition to the proposal during a brief discussion in the Senate.

Legislative salaries will remain unchanged because a commission that meets every four years to consider pay for the General Assembly already had recommended a four-year freeze. Lawmakers cannot vote themselves a pay raise without commission approval.

The Governor’s Salary Commission recommended that the next governor receive an annual $5,000 increase, which would boost the governor’s salary to $170,000 by 2010. It proposed smaller, but still substantial, increases for the lieutenant governor, comptroller, attorney general, treasurer and secretary of state.

The salary recommend-ations automatically would take effect unless scaled back or rejected by the House and Senate, which seems likely to happen this year.

No one objected to the Budget and Taxation Committee recommendation when it was brought to the Senate yesterday, and it is expected to be approved on a final vote later this week.

Members of the legislature get $43,500 a year except for the Senate president and House speaker, who get $13,000 more each annually than the other 186 senators and delegates.

Asked about the freeze on the governor’s pay, Henry Fawell, a spokesman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, said, “The governor is not opposed to this. He’s not in it for the money.”


Firefighter fired after on-scene fight

A volunteer firefighter in Prince George’s County has been fired for fighting with career firefighters from the county at the scene of a fire.

Firefighters from the Kentland Fire Station and the Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Department disagreed over who was supposed to fight a Feb. 13 fire in the 6900 block of Standish Drive in Landover Hills.

Amateur video showed the firefighters shoving and hitting one another.

County fire officials said an internal investigation reveals that the volunteer fought with other firefighters both inside and outside the home. Spokesman Mark Brady said the firefighter’s name is not being released because it is a personnel matter.

The volunteer firefighter’s termination letter from Prince George’s County Fire Chief Lawrence Sedgwick calls his actions “reprehensible.”

The department’s internal probe is continuing, and officials said other firefighters could face discipline, as well.


Two go on trial in Charles arsons

Opening arguments are expected today in the trial of two men accused of taking part in the torching of dozens of homes in a Charles County subdivision in December 2004.

Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys for Roy T. McCann and Michael M. Everhart met yesterday in federal court to pick a jury that will hear arson and conspiracy charges against the two men.

Three other men were sentenced in December for the fires, including reported ringleader Patrick S. Walsh, who was given a term of more than 19 years in prison.

Authorities said the men had a variety of motives for the crime, including a bid for attention and anger that many of the residents moving into the Hunters Brook subdivision were black.

The fires destroyed or damaged 26 houses, causing an estimated $10 million in damage.


Leak at gas stationcould take years to fix

A leak from an underground tank has spilled about 25,000 gallons of regular unleaded gasoline and may take several years to clean up, state environmental officials said yesterday.

The leak occurred Thursday at a dealer-operated Exxon Mobil station in northern Baltimore County and was reported to the state the next day, officials said. The station has been closed, and the remainder of the gasoline was pumped from the tank.

Company spokeswoman Prem Nair said Exxon Mobil was moving “aggressively to clean up as much of the spill as quickly as possible.”

The leak occurred in a community where many residents get their water from wells, raising fears of contamination.

Maryland Department of Environment Secretary Kendl Philbrick said preliminary tests of the utilities and the groundwater in the vicinity were clean, but that Exxon Mobil was monitoring the situation closely and that the state was requiring daily reports.

By midafternoon yesterday, the company had recovered 3,100 gallons.

Herb Meade, administrator of the state’s oil-control program, said the cleanup may take several years.

“This type of release shouldn’t occur in today’s world,” he said. “It’s disheartening to see this much product get out of the tank system.”

He said that the station was receiving a delivery at the time of the spill and that there were repairs under way near the underground tank. The exact cause of the spill remains under investigation, he said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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