- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 4, 2008


FTA approves Dulles Metrorail extension

The Federal Transit Administration has approved a $5 billion plan to extend the Metrorail system to Dulles International Airport.

The approval is a critical step toward obtaining the necessary $900 million in federal funding for the 23-mile extension, which will be built in two phases.

The proposal now heads to Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters, the Office of Management and Budget and Congress for final approval.

Gordon Hickey, a spokesman for Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, said the governor was pleased with the FTA’s decision but cautioned “it’s too early to celebrate.”

The future of Dulles rail looked grim nearly a year ago when the FTA unexpectedly said the project did not meet federal cost-efficiency standards.

The project’s first segment will run to Reston and a second segment will stretch to Dulles.


Northeast woman severely burned

A woman suffered severe burns during a fire in her Northeast apartment, authorities said.

The woman was found unconscious in her first-floor apartment Wednesday afternoon, D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter said. Crews revived the woman after performing CPR and she was taken to a hospital. The fire that consumed her apartment was under investigation.



Four men rob bank in Laurel

Four men armed with semiautomatic weapons robbed a Laurel bank Wednesday morning, Prince George’s County police said.

Four men dressed in dark clothing and carrying rifles entered the Bank of America on Montrose Avenue around 10:30 a.m. and took an unknown amount of money, police spokesman Cpl. Stephen Pacheco said.

They fled in a Jeep. A bank security guard fired his weapon, hitting the vehicle, Cpl. Pacheco said.

A short time later, witnesses told police, the suspects switched to another car, either a black Toyota or a black Cadillac Escalade, police said.

No one was injured.


O’Malley to help lead governors group

Gov. Martin O’Malley has been elected vice chairman of the Democratic Governors Association for 2009.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana will serve as 2009 chairman, succeeding Gov. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

Mr. O’Malley said he’s honored to have been elected and looks forward to working with the federal government to get the economy back on track.

Mr. Schweitzer said he expects the states and the federal government to have a better relationship than they did under the Bush administration. He added that the ranks of Democratic governors have swelled to their largest since 1994 and that he and Mr. O’Malley are taking leadership positions at an “exciting time.”


Trust gives millions to four colleges

A trust that benefits four Maryland colleges has given $3 million to each of the schools.

The Hodson Trust announced the grants Wednesday. The money goes to Hood College, St. John’s College, Washington College and Johns Hopkins University.

The dollar amounts are down slightly. Last year, the Hodson Trust gave $3.5 million to each school, and in 2006, each college got a record $4.5 million.

Trust Chairman Finn Caspersen says the sagging stock market is the reason the trust was unable to give more this year.

The trust was established in 1920 by the family of Clarence Hodson, founder of the Beneficial Corp. and a pioneer in the small-loan business. It handed out its first grants in 1936 and has awarded more than $210 million to the four schools over its history.


Officials doubt action on universal care

Maryland lawmakers doubt the General Assembly will take action in the new year on a proposal to bring universal health care to the state.

Sen. Robert Garagiola, Montgomery County Democrat, said Tuesday the plan is “probably a non-starter” in the next legislative session, but he says lawmakers might pursue parts of it.

Under the plan drafted by the Maryland Citizens’ Health Care Initiative, the program would be funded with tax increases on alcohol and cigarettes and a 2 percent payroll tax on employers. If approved, the state would cover catastrophic care for the state’s 775,000 uninsured residents, subsidize insurance premiums and allow more people to enroll in Medicaid.

The package would cost $2.8 billion annually.


Hearing for mother in child’s drug death

A Baltimore woman who was given a suspended sentence for the methadone poisoning of her daughter, 2, is scheduled to appear at a probation hearing next month, following word that she is failing a drug treatment program.

Vernice Harris, 31, began the Second Genesis residential treatment program in September. According to a Second Genesis memo obtained by the Baltimore Sun, program officials recommended last month that she be removed because she had tested positive for alcohol.

Her attorney, Maureen Rowland, plans to argue at the hearing that Harris should be given another chance.

Harris was sentenced in August to 10 years in prison, but the term reduced to five years probation and completion of a substance abuse program.



Uranium mining plan concerns resort

The resort city of Virginia Beach is taking a stand against uranium mining, fearful it could threaten its water supply.

The City Council adopted a resolution on Tuesday night opposing a proposed mine in Pittsylvania County.

The city, as well as other Hampton Roads localities, draws its water from Lake Gaston. The lake on the North Carolina line is the midway point between Virginia Beach and the massive uranium deposit.

Twenty-five years ago, Virginia put a moratorium on uranium mining. In November, the Commission on Coal and Energy agreed to study the impact of uranium mining.


Jobless rate steady despite economy

Virginia’s unemployment rate is holding steady despite a national economic downturn.

The Virginia Employment Commission says the state’s jobless rate in October was 4.2 percent, the same as September’s rate.

But unemployment was up from October 2007, when the rate was 3.1 percent.

Figures released Wednesday by the commission show that seasonal jobs and an increase in school and transportation employment kept the rate unchanged.

The national unemployment rate increased 0.1 percentage point in October to 6.1 percent.


Virginia Symphony to cut salaries

The Virginia Symphony Orchestra is cutting all employees’ salaries by 20 percent and will cancel some spring concerts.

The Norfolk-based symphony has $1.5 million debt, largely because of lower single-ticket sales and donations this year.

The salary cuts will take effect Jan. 1, Symphony Executive Director Carla Johnson said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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