Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Powell helps raise memorial funds

Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is helping to deliver a $1 million gift from UnitedHealth Group Inc. for the planned Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.

Mr. Powell said all Americans should donate any amount they can to help build the memorial to the civil rights leader on the Mall. The foundation building the memorial has raised $102 million of the $120 million needed for the project.

Mr. Powell said the King memorial will be different from the others in the nation’s capital because it is for a man “who fought a war of peace and fought the second civil war.”

He said the national economic crisis will make efforts to raise money more daunting. Still, Mr. Powell said, the generosity of corporations and individuals remains, and the U.S. economy will rebound.



Couple sentenced in D.C. tax scam

A Maryland couple have been sentenced for their involvement in a scheme to defraud the District’s tax office out of nearly $50 million.

Prosecutors said Patricia and Robert Steven of Harwood deposited about $9 million in fraudulent checks from the tax office into the bank accounts of their small clothing business. They then used some of the money to buy three Jaguars, at least two homes and jewelry.

Prosecutors said the fraudulent checks were part of a scheme led by former D.C. tax office worker Harriette Walters, who stole money from the city through fake property tax refunds. Walters then funneled the money to friends and relatives.

Patricia Steven appeared Monday in federal court and was sentenced to nearly six years in prison. Her husband, Robert, a former Internal Revenue Service worker, was sentenced hours later to nearly four years in prison.


Food stamp need hits record numbers

The Department of Human Resources said record numbers of Maryland residents are receiving food stamps this year.

Anne Arundel County, with a 26 percent increase, is reporting the biggest jump of recipients in the state.

In November 2007, about 15,700 people in Anne Arundel received food stamps, the department said. That compares with more than 19,800 last month.

Mark Millspaugh, the deputy director of family investment for the county Department of Social Services, said the agency is seeing people who are laid off, have medical emergencies or are facing rent or mortgage increases.

The Department of Human Resources recently reported that about 389,300 people in Maryland are in the food stamp program.


Puppy found in trash bag

Hagerstown police said a pit bull and eight of her puppies have been removed from a city home after a ninth puppy was found in a bag of trash outside.

Police said a woman walking Sunday evening in the 400 block of North Locust Street heard whimpering coming from the bag, peered inside and found the puppy, thought to be about a week old.

Police department spokesman Sgt. Tom Langston said officers knocked on doors, found the home from where the puppy came and discovered the other dogs inside.

Sgt. Langston said the puppy was taken to a veterinary hospital and appeared to be in good condition. The Humane Society took the other dogs.

Police were continuing to investigate.


State gets funds for heat assistance

Maryland officials expect to be able to help more than 100,000 low-income households with heat and electricity bills this winter.

Gov. Martin O’Malley and U.S. Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin, all Democrats, said Monday that the federal government appropriated $110 million for the Maryland Energy Assistance Program.

Households with income below 175 percent of the federal poverty level - up to $18,200 for a single person or $37,100 for a family of four - are eligible for the assistance.

The state Department of Human Resources said last year’s $35 million allocation reached 93,000 households, but funds were depleted in March.

Brian Wilbon, the department’s deputy secretary for operations, said the state should be able to help about 102,000 households this year, but that’s only about a third of the eligible households.

The federal government also appropriated $16.2 million to the District for fiscal 2009 and $127.7 million to Virginia - both increases compared with last year - for low-income home energy assistance, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association.

D.C. residents seeking help should call the city’s Department of the Environment´s Energy Office Division or visit its Web site at www.dceo.dc.gov for application information and eligibility guidelines. The deadline to apply for Virginia’s fuel assistance program to help with energy costs was Dec. 1.


Trains to run for holiday, inauguration

The Maryland Transit Administration has announced it will service customers on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Inauguration Day.

All three lines of the Maryland Area Regional Commuter Train Service and MTA buses will run along designated routes during special times that will be announced Friday on the transit Web site.

An MTA spokeswoman said train tickets must be purchased in advance to ensure that riders will have seating.

Spokeswoman Jawauna Greene said the rail system does not expect to service all visitors to the area on Inauguration Day.

“We can accommodate 30,000 people on our MARC trains and bus services,” she said. “We have to have some measure of control so our trains won’t be overloaded and we can operate more efficiently.”

Tickets will be available at a special rate.


Governor’s race looks tight, poll shows

Attorney General Bob McDonnell, a Republican, will face a stiff challenge from any one of three Democratic candidates in next year’s gubernatorial contest, according to an early survey of Virginia voters by Rasmussen Reports.

Delegate Brian J. Moran of Alexandria is the only Democrat who would beat Mr. McDonnell, according to the poll of 500 voters conducted Dec. 4. Forty-one percent sided with Mr. Moran, while 37 percent sided with Mr. McDonnell.

But Mr. McDonnell and Delegate R. Creigh Deeds of Bath County - who competed against each other in the 2005 attorney general race - each earned 39 percent of voters in a head-to-head matchup.

Mr. McDonnell polled ahead of former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe 41 percent to 36 percent. Mr. McAuliffe has not officially announced his candidacy but is exploring a run.

Mr. McDonnell is the only Republican in the race. Democrats will select a nominee in a June primary.


Towers accused of endangering child

Two Fredericksburg-area tow truck employees were charged with felonies after towing a vehicle with a small child inside.

Police said Jason Bryant, 25, of Spotsylvania, and Derek Miller, 21, of Stafford, were charged with child endangerment.

The Patriot Towing employees did not realize the mistake until getting back to the business shortly afterward with the car. The 2-year-old girl was unharmed and returned to her mother.

Police said the men were on the lookout for improperly parked vehicles at a housing complex and saw the woman’s car double parked Sunday.

The mother told police she ran into the home to talk to some people and left the car running and unlocked with the girl in a car seat. When she returned five minutes later, the car was gone.


Public input sought on transportation cuts

Public hearings will be held across Virginia next month on proposed spending cuts for transportation projects.

Secretary of Transportation Pierce R. Homer said the midyear review of the Six-Year Improvement Program is in response to an anticipated decline of up to $2.6 billion in transportation revenue during the next six years.

The revised plan would cut $1.2 billion from the improvement program. Mr. Homer said Monday that an additional $400 million will have to be carved out before the plan is presented to the Commonwealth Transportation Board in January.

Public hearings are scheduled for Jan. 5 in Dublin, Jan. 6 in Culpeper, Jan. 7 in Chesapeake, Jan. 12 in Richmond and Jan. 13 in Fairfax. Each hearing will begin at 6 p.m.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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