- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2006


Voting rights bill passes House panel

A bill that would give the District a vote in Congress was approved yesterday by the House Government Reform Committee, marking the first time that such a measure has passed a committee vote.

The panel voted 29-4 in favor of the bill, which would expand the House by two seats, giving one to the District and the other to Utah. Similar measures have been introduced in the past but have never made it out of committee.

The District’s nonvoting House member, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, called the vote historic.

“Progress on a bill of this magnitude occurs in steps,” she said.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams also praised the bipartisan vote.

“It shows that Democrats and Republicans can come together to agree on at least one thing — that it’s undemocratic for the residents of the District of Columbia not to have a vote in Congress,” he said.

The measure now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

Falun Gong protester appears in court

A Falun Gong protester who disrupted a White House welcome ceremony for Chinese President Hu Jintao last month made a brief appearance in court yesterday.

In a courtroom packed with Falun Gong supporters, Dr. Wang Wenyi, 47 replied “yes” when asked whether she agreed to have the preliminary hearing continued until May 31, when she will next appear in court.

Dr. Wang has been charged with seeking to “intimidate, coerce, frighten or harass Chinese President Hu Jintao, a foreign official in the performance of his duty” on the White House lawn on April 20.

If convicted, she could face a $5,000 fine and six months in prison.

Besides the Falun Gong members in the courtroom, about 20 supporters of the spiritual group that is banned in China gathered outside the U.S. District Court to show their support.

Dr. Wang interrupted an elaborate welcome ceremony at the White House laid on by President Bush, who later apologized to Mr. Hu.

In Chinese and English, Dr. Wang shouted “President Bush stop him from killing” and “President Bush stop him from persecuting Falun Gong.”

Afghan boy survives heart surgery

A 7-year-old boy from Afghanistan with a congenital heart defect was out of surgery yesterday at Children’s Hospital.

Doctors said the lifesaving surgery to fix Omar Mohammed’s heart was successful, but because of his age he faces greater risks during recovery.

The surgery involved closing a hole in his heart and removing blockage in the arteries to the lungs. This is usually detected early and performed on infants.

The surgeon says the next 24 to 48 hours would be a critical time but that Omar’s chances are very good.

Omar’s condition was discovered a year ago at an American hospital in Afghanistan. The Larry King Cardiac Foundation is paying for the surgery.



Man gets 4 years in woman’s kidnapping

A man was sentenced yesterday to four years in prison for his role in the kidnapping of a Frederick woman.

Jose Padilla-Colin, 28, of Cuerna Vaca, Morales, Mexico, cooperated with the government after his arrest, and U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson took that into account during sentencing, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Padilla-Colin also was ordered to serve three years of supervised release.

Padilla-Colin and his accomplice, Hugo Aguilar-Mejia of Palmdale, Calif., had faced maximum sentences of life in prison. They pleaded guilty to helping to abduct Delmy Rivera last summer from a Frederick street. Aguilar-Mejia was sentenced earlier this month to six years.

Miss Rivera’s father told authorities that his daughter had been in contact with Aguilar-Mejia, an acquaintance, and that he had come to Maryland to see her.

Police found Miss Rivera and Aguilar-Mejia when they pulled over a car for speeding in Memphis, Texas, two days after Miss Rivera vanished.

Authorities arrested Padilla-Colin in Willis, Texas, a few days later.


Consumer advocate for BGE plan ads

In a dispute over an electricity payment plan suggested by Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., the state Office of the People’s Counsel argued yesterday that a lawsuit over the plan doesn’t prevent BGE from advertising the situation to customers.

The utility-regulating Public Service Commission is appealing to the Court of Special Appeals a decision by a judge who sided with the city of Baltimore, which sued to stop the payment plan. BGE suggested a plan where residential customers could pay the upcoming 72 percent rate increase over time.

BGE interpreted a stay in the case as a block from advertising the payment plan. But in court papers filed yesterday, the People’s Counsel argued that BGE just can’t say the payment plan is settled.

The city’s response repeats its argument that BGE should be barred from advertising the plan because it could confuse customers.

Also yesterday, Baltimore legislators wrote to top lawmakers calling for a special session to address electricity rate relief.


Friend offering ride charged with DUI, too

A 24-year-old woman who went to pick up a friend charged with drunken driving ended up being charged with the same offense.

Charlene LaToya Terry went to the state police barrack in Salisbury about 5:30 a.m. Thursday to pick up a friend, police said. The friend had been charged with driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license.

Troopers charged Miss Terry as well after speaking with her and suspecting she, too, was under the influence of alcohol, the Salisbury Daily Times reported.



Schools discipline paint-tossing youths

Three students accused of throwing paint cans from a New York City hotel roof, injuring a police officer, have been disciplined by school officials.

After meeting privately Wednesday night, the Roanoke County School Board voted to expel one student and place another in an alternative education program. A third student’s expulsion will be suspended pending special provisions that were not made public.

Tyler Moses Moore Jr., 18, Sean McGhee, 18, and Brittany Goldberg, 17, were arrested May 7 after seven one-gallon paint cans were thrown from the roof of the 20-story DoubleTree Metropolitan Hotel, across the street from a police precinct house in Manhattan.

The students were on an art field trip with a group of students from Roanoke County’s Cave Spring and Hidden Valley high schools.

The Moore youth’s attorney, William Alford III, has said the students were trying to make an artistic statement and not trying to hurt anybody.

The paint caused more than $1,500 in damage to two police cars, two police scooters and an officer’s personal vehicle, authorities said. One officer was treated at a hospital after paint splashed into his eye.

All three students are charged with felony criminal mischief, misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor criminal trespass. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled in New York for June 15.

Board members declined to comment which student received which punishment.


Girl, 13, accepted for college program

A 13-year-old Minnesota girl is getting ready for college this fall in Virginia.

Eighth-grader Fiona Manzella has been admitted into the gifted program at Mary Baldwin College.

Fiona has completed her high school course work, taken the SAT and is ready to move across the country for her new life. She was home-schooled by her mother, Teresa Manzella, who also home-schools her 10-year-old son.

Mary Baldwin spokeswoman Crista Cabe said Fiona will be one of about 75 students from eighth grade up who are admitted to the school’s Program for the Exceptionally Gifted. Over the past 20 years, faculty and staff have figured out ways to support young students, she said.

Fiona will major in cello performance and minor in creative writing.


Freight train kills man on tracks

Freight train traffic was stopped yesterday morning after a man was fatally struck by a Norfolk Southern train.

Fairfax County fire department spokesman Dan Schmidt said the man was dead at the scene near the 5600 block of South Van Dorn Street.

Mr. Schmidt said there was no derailment.


Four arrested in theft of baby formula

Police looking for a sport utility vehicle sought after a robbery pulled over the vehicle at gunpoint yesterday, and officers found nearly 600 cans of baby formula inside and four suspects in a string of shopliftings.

The four, stopped in a Jeep at about 2 p.m. on Interstate 95, were charged with stealing nine cans of baby formula from a Food Lion in Dumfries, police said. They said an employee who tried to stop the shoplifters was punched and sprayed with pepper spray.

Baby formula is a popular item to steal and sell on the black market, and police think the four were on a multistate spree stealing formula in the District, North Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia.

The four are residents of Goldsboro, N.C., and were charged with misdemeanor petit larceny in Prince William. Police said they expect other charges from other jurisdictions.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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