Saturday, December 6, 2008



Area schools on list of best

The nation’s best high school is in Alexandria, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology ranked as the No. 1 American high school after U.S. News and School Evaluation Services evaluated more than 21,000 schools.

Woodson High, McLean High and Langley High, all in Fairfax County, join Winston Churchill High, Thomas S. Wootton High and Walt Whitman High in Maryland’s Montgomery County on the list of top 100 schools.

Schools were ranked on how students performed on standardized tests, how schools educate disadvantaged students and on students’ readiness for college.


Hotels still open for inauguration

More than 1,000 hotel rooms are still available in the D.C. region for those wanting to attend President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration, tourism officials said.

The District’s tourism bureau, Destination DC, announced Friday it has located more than 1,400 rooms within 30 miles of the city. Destination DC said there are hundreds of additional rooms within 200 miles of the city.

Room rates vary from $100 to more than $1,000 per night, the bureau said. Minimum stay restrictions may apply.

Destination DC said it has been in contact with the region’s hotels and tourism offices. Those seeking the latest information on availability may call 800/422-8644.



Woman sentenced for check scheme

A federal judge has sentenced a Frederick woman to two years in prison for a $400,000 check scheme.

Michelle Rampersad was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt to 27 months for wire fraud. She also must pay restitution of $400,954.

Rampersad fraudulently endorsed insurance reimbursement checks to her employer. According to a plea agreement, from March 2004 to August 2007 the 31-year-old used the money for her own benefit, including gambling.

She pleaded guilty to depositing the checks into her account after using her employer’s prescription stamp to fraudulently endorse insurance carriers’ checks. Then she kept the check entries out of the dentist’s books to hide her actions.


Crab license plan modified

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is modifying a proposal that would require that all recreational crabbers have licenses.

DNR officials suggested last month the licenses should cost $2, but now officials say the licenses should be free. Under the proposal, the licenses would be available at DNR service centers and online.

Expanding the license requirement would end exemptions granted to waterfront property owners and those on land catching crabs with dip nets. State officials have said there could be as many as 65,000 crabbers without a license.

Department officials said the requirement would help officials understand how many crabs are caught by recreational crabbers.

A legislative committee must approve the proposal.


Light rail service extended for game

The Maryland Transit Administration is extending light rail service for Sunday night’s Redskins-Ravens game in Baltimore.

Light rail trains will run from the Hamburg Street station near M&T Bank Stadium during the game and for at least an hour following the game, departing as needed and serving all stations, the transit agency said.

On Sunday, the last scheduled trains going to the Hamburg Street stop will depart at 9:00 p.m. from Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Cromwell and Hunt Valley.

Shuttle bus service also will be provided from Penn Station to the Mount Royal light rail station from 10:14 a.m. to 8:44 p.m.


Annual Antietam illumination planned

For the 20th year, Antietam National Battlefield will be illuminated for an evening from the light of more than 23,000 candles.

The illumination begins Saturday at 6 p.m. off Route 34 in Sharpsburg. Plans call for a five-mile driving tour through the park. The candles represent the number of soldiers killed, wounded or declared missing in the bloodiest single-day battle of the Civil War.

The candles have a special wick to help them burn longer and withstand the elements. They are custom-made by Ohio-based Root Candles.

Event founder Georgene Charles said at least 1,200 volunteers are expected to help place the candles Saturday morning. The illumination is free, but visitors are advised to line up with their cars hours ahead of time.



Slain woman was Navy yeoman

Authorities said a Navy yeoman was violently killed at her apartment in Alexandria, but they have not disclosed the exact cause of death.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Juantissa Hill, 24, was a secretary in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon. Police found her body when they went to her apartment to check on her. The death was ruled a homicide.

Alexandria police spokeswoman Ashley Hildebrandt said the slain woman’s car, which had been missing, was found.

The Navy Criminal Investigative Service is assisting the investigation.


Symphony may file for bankruptcy

Virginia Symphony Orchestra officials say musicians may not get their next paycheck unless the organization gets a $1 million loan.

Symphony Executive Director Carla Johnson said without the loan from Norfolk’s Economic Development Authority, the organization may file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Norfolk Mayor Paul D. Fraim, a Democrat, said the loan would not have to be approved by the City Council. He said he thought $1 million was too much, and that a loan of $500,000 in the form of a line of credit would be better.

The symphony already has cut nearly 30 administrative and artistic staffers’ salaries by 20 percent starting Jan. 1 and canceled some spring concerts to help deal with its financial crisis.


Man held alone gets some freedom

A mentally ill patient who has been locked in seclusion at a Virginia mental hospital for 15 years is getting more freedom.

Cesar Chumil has lived locked in a three-room dormitory-style suite at Western State Hospital because staff say he is too unpredictably violent to live among other patients.

A state oversight committee had given the hospital until Friday to come up with a plan to transition Mr. Chumil out of his suite. On Friday, the committee signed off on the hospital’s plan to allow Mr. Chumil to come out of his room into a larger room where staff would be present in padded gear and helmets.

Mr. Chumil still will not have access to other patients.

Mr. Chumil’s attorneys said the move was a step in the right direction, but they still would like to see Mr. Chumil transferred to another facility.


Five rabies cases confirmed in county

Virginia health officials said four skunks and a fox have tested positive for rabies in Alleghany County, exposing at least eight family pets to the disease.

Virginia Health Department spokesman Bobby Parker said Friday that the rabies cases began Aug. 29, with two confirmed this week. All the rabid animals were found in an area south of the Jackson River and east of Virginia 18.

Mr. Parker said the dogs and cats known to have been exposed to the deadly disease must be confined for 45 days if they have current vaccinations. The rest must be kept in isolation for six months.

He said officials had not determined whether livestock in the area were exposed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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