- The Washington Times - Friday, March 2, 2007


Walter Reed chief relieved of duties

The Army yesterday fired the general in charge of Walter Reed Army Medical Center after disclosures about inadequate treatment of Iraq vets and other wounded soldiers.

Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman was commanding general of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command as well as Walter Reed hospital. The action was announced by Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey.

The Army said service leaders had “lost trust and confidence” in Gen. Weightman’s leadership abilities “to address needed solutions for soldier outpatient care.” He had headed Walter Reed since August.

After a visit to the hospital compound Friday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said those found to have been responsible for the problems would be “held accountable.”



Kaine says he will sign HPV vaccine bill

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said last night that he will sign legislation requiring all sixth-grade girls to be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer.

Virginia would become the second state to mandate the vaccine for the human papillomavirus, or HPV, and the first to do it through legislative action. Texas Gov. Rick Perry sidestepped the Legislature and ordered the shots for girls there, but lawmakers are considering overriding that order.

“I think it strikes the right balance,” Mr. Kaine said yesterday at Eastern Virginia Medical School, where he was speaking on health care legislation from the recent General Assembly session.

The bill would not go into effect until October 2008. Supporters said that gives enough time to study any side effects before Virginia’s girls are required to get the shots.

Bills were introduced in about 20 states to require the vaccine, but some backed off because of concerns over the vaccine’s safety and protests from conservatives who say requiring it promotes promiscuity and erodes parents’ rights.

Mr. Kaine said Virginia’s legislation is “going to be a model for other states to follow.”

The bill must be signed by the speaker of the House and the Senate president before Mr. Kaine can sign it.


Delays expected ahead of Route 1 bridge debut

After nearly three years of construction, a new bridge over the Capital Beltway on U.S. Route 1 is scheduled to open this weekend.

The $147 million interchange project is part of the nearly $2.5 billion Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project.

Drivers are advised to avoid the area.

Beginning tomorrow afternoon, drivers heading from the Beltway’s Outer Loop onto northbound Route 1 will see a new traffic pattern that includes the new bridge. Beginning at 4 a.m. Sunday, workers will begin closing ramps and lanes so traffic can be switched to the new bridge. Officials say southbound traffic will not be able to cross the Beltway on Route 1 for much of Sunday.

Traffic will be detoured onto the Inner Loop to Telegraph Road, so motorists will be able to use the Outer Loop to reach southbound Route 1.

Plans call for demolition of the old Route 1 bridge later this year. Removal of the old four-lane bridge will clear the way for more work on the second half of the new bridge.


Illness shuts down Crystal City hotel

The Crystal City Hyatt has been closed to new guests after an outbreak of the norovirus.

Guests and staff who are ill are being treated on site, and those guests who haven’t gotten sick are being moved to other hotels, Arlington County health officials said.

The outbreak comes a few weeks after the Hilton hotel near Washington Dulles International Airport was closed temporarily when more than 100 guests were sickened by the norovirus.


Prison locks down to stop norovirus

About 1,500 inmates at the crowded Richmond City Jail remained on lockdown yesterday to stop the spread of a stomach virus.

The lockdown will keep inmates in their cells 24 hours a day, eliminate visits by friends and family and cancel court dates. The quarantine will run until at least Wednesday.

Thirty-five to 50 inmates have caught the virus, which can trigger vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. Five deputies have shown symptoms.

Statewide, the number of norovirus outbreaks since Nov. 1 stands at more than 150, most of which have occurred in long-term care facilities.



School bus accident hospitalizes five

Five persons were hospitalized after a school bus was struck by a car yesterday afternoon, Montgomery County authorities said.

The accident happened just before 3 p.m. at Jones Bridge Road and Connecticut Avenue.

Five of the seven persons aboard the bus were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, fire department spokesman Pete Piringer said.

The patients include two adults and three students thought to be 10 to 12 years of age, he said. Their exact ages and conditions were not known last night, nor was their destination.


Father arrested in infant son’s death

Baltimore County police have charged a resident of a Catonsville-area shelter in the death of his 15-day-old son at the infant’s home in the North Point area.

Kenneth Ryan, 20, is accused of injuring his son while caring for him. Mr. Ryan told police he blacked out after inhaling from a can of Dust-Off computer cleaning spray. He said he could not recall how he caused the injuries to the baby.

Police found the baby, Julian Woody, unresponsive on Monday evening. He died at a hospital the next day. The autopsy determined he died of blunt-force trauma to the head.

Mr. Ryan is charged with first-degree murder and has been denied bail.


Police impersonator charged with burglary

Anne Arundel County police have arrested a man who they say burglarized a home while impersonating a police officer.

Daniel Yanke, 24, of Pasadena, has been charged with first-degree burglary, impersonating a police officer and destruction of property.

Residents of the Chesterfield West community reported the man to police Wednesday after he identified himself as a robbery detective with Baltimore County police.

Neighbors said he was acting suspiciously.

Mr. Yanke was taken into custody, and police said he acknowledged impersonating a police officer in order to put people at ease while he was in the community.


Career criminal gets 12 years for robbery

Federal prosecutors said good police work led to the arrest of a career criminal who had just robbed a bank on Pulaski Highway in Baltimore County.

Yesterday, Eric Clifton, 50, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to more than 12 years in prison.

Shortly after an armed bandit robbed an M&T; Bank branch in May, two detectives on the county’s Auto Theft Task Force were running random checks on vehicle license tags through the National Crime Information Center computer system, prosecutors said. When they found an outstanding arrest warrant on the owner of a Lincoln Mark VIII, they stopped the vehicle and discovered evidence of the robbery that had just occurred.

Clifton has two previous bank robbery convictions.


Man indicted in $8 million scam

A Baltimore man bilked more than 900 investors, including residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast who endured Hurricane Katrina, out of $8 million in a Ponzi scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said yesterday.

David McDowell Robinson, 56, was arrested yesterday, a day after a federal grand jury indicted him on wire and mail fraud charges.

Mr. Robinson’s company, Liberty Trade International Inc., solicited investments of up to $10,000 and promised returns of up to 30 percent. The company said it would provide short-term financing to home buyers or people refinancing their homes to generate the returns. Instead, Mr. Robinson paid investors with funds received by other investors, federal prosecutors said.

Mr. Robinson was charged with five counts of wire fraud and 14 counts of mail fraud. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine for each charge.

He had an initial court appearance yesterday and was ordered detained pending a hearing today.


School board opposes plan to merge police

The chairman of Baltimore’s school board is against Mayor Sheila Dixon’s plan to merge school police with the Baltimore Police Department.

Chairman Brian Morris declared his opposition to the proposal Tuesday night and said it was not likely to win approval.

The school police force is a specialized department that gets specific training for interactions with juveniles, Mr. Morris said. The school board oversees the school police.

Miss Dixon’s proposal was made amid concerns about rising juvenile crime and gang activity in city schools. She is waiting for suggestions from Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm, who headed the school police force for several years.

Commissioner Hamm favors the merger, a police spokesman said.


Four tugboats can’t free stuck freighter

Four tugboats working in tandem were unable to move a huge freighter that ran aground in the mouth of the Choptank River, U.S. Coast Guard officials said yesterday.

The 711-foot ship, which is loaded with coal and weighs 38,700 tons, ran aground Wednesday morning, and the Coast Guard made several attempts to get it floating again.

The final attempt was made at high tide yesterday afternoon and involved four tugs — twice as many as were used Wednesday. But the ship wouldn’t budge.

The Liberian-flagged vessel’s owner will be required to submit a salvage plan, which the Coast Guard and the Maryland Department of the Environment will review, said Lt. j.g. Isaac Saenz, a Coast Guard spokesman.

A Maryland pilot was aboard the ship, which was heading from the Port of Baltimore to the Atlantic Ocean when it ran aground, Lt. Saenz said.

What caused it to leave the Chesapeake Bay’s main shipping channel remains under investigation.

The freighter showed no signs of structural damage, but it will be re-examined once it’s floating again, Lt. Saenz said. There have been no reports of pollution.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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