- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 30, 2007


Judge OKs beards for firefighters

A federal judge has struck down a requirement that D.C. firefighters be clean-shaven.

The ruling resolves a 2001 lawsuit by a group of firefighters who wear beards for religious reasons, challenging the department’s “grooming policy.” That policy was replaced with a safety policy in 2005 that held that beards are not compatible with breathing units because they make it impossible to form a tight seal around the face.

Some of the plaintiffs have left the department and those who have not are in nonfirefighting roles.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson cited the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He ruled that the city failed to meet its burden of proof that being clean-shaven is required to safely wear a self-contained breathing apparatus.

D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter said that he was not aware of the ruling but that the department will comply.

Two killed in separate incidents

Two persons were killed within minutes of each other early yesterday in separate incidents, police said.

Officers responded at 1:18 a.m. to the 4800 block of Alabama Avenue Southeast for a call about shots fired, Metropolitan Police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile said.

Officers found two men suffering from apparent gunshot wounds to the body and head.

A 38-year-old man was transported to a hospital, where he was admitted in critical condition. A second man, who had not been identified, was taken to Howard University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Sgt. Gentile said. He said police had no suspects or motive in the case.

Minutes later, at 1:30 a.m., officers responded to the 3300 block of K Street Northwest and found a man suffering from stab wounds, Sgt. Gentile said. He said Marcel Banks, 30, of the unit block of Temple Court Northwest was transported to MedStar, where he was later pronounced dead.

Smoke, power failure plague Red Line

Smoke and power supply problems led to delays yesterday on Metro’s Red Line.

The Farragut North station closed twice in about two hours for reports of smoke from an insulator on the tracks. The fire department was first called to the station at about 12 p.m., but the same problem returned about 1:15 p.m.

Another problem on the Red Line blocked trains from running through the Friendship Heights station for about an hour starting at 12:10 p.m. In that case, there was no power on either track, so Metro ran shuttle buses from the Medical Center station to Van Ness.

Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato said the problems weren’t related to the smoke and fires that crippled the transit system last month. She said the smoke at Farragut North was caused by aging equipment, and at Friendship Heights someone accidentally shut off the power.

She said normal service resumed at about 3:15 p.m.

Baby’s death ruled a homicide

The death of a 17-month-old toddler has been ruled a homicide.

Metropolitan Police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile said emergency medical crews responded at 4:06 a.m. Friday to a residence in the 3100 block of G Street Southeast and found Darnell Jamal Wilson suffering from apparent trauma to the head and body. The child was transported to Children’s Hospital, where he died. Sgt. Gentile said the medical examiner has ruled the cause of death was blunt force trauma.

Doctor charged with double dipping

A city-employed doctor has been charged with fraud for working for one government agency while secretly earning money from another.

The D.C. attorney general’s office filed an 18-count criminal complaint Friday against Charles Hall. The 64-year-old physician was accused of cheating the city out of more than $12,000 between 2004 and 2006.

The complaint says Dr. Hall was working as a full-time medical officer for the Health Department’s addiction recovery program, but at the same time he was secretly earning a paycheck from the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.



Visa program set to expire

A visa program allowing foreign workers to work in the state’s seafood industry is set to expire today, and owners of Eastern Shore crab-picking houses say it’s a big problem for them.

Harry Phillips, who owns Russell Hall Seafood on Hoopers Island, said without the workers, he’ll be out of business.

The H2B visa program has been in effect since 1990. It allows foreign workers into the country on a temporary visa to work in seasonal industries, such as landscaping, fisheries and hotels.

Crab processors got some help from Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, who pushed for an expansion to the H2B limits, but the issue kept getting bogged down in the larger national debate on immigration.


Brewery may expand

The Wild Goose Brewery in Frederick is looking to increase its output. The 45,000-square-foot brewery was bought last year by a Denver-based company that now uses it to make Flying Dog Pale Ale, Old Scratch Amber Lager and Wild Goose Oatmeal Stout.

The brewery produces nearly 60,000 barrels a year. Flying Dog plans to double annual capacity to the 120,000 barrels the space allows.

From staff reports and wire dispatches

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