- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2008


Mall neglected, Norton tells House

The Mall is unkempt and in need of a major face-lift that could cost $500 million, some federal lawmakers and activists said.

“There’s no great national park that suffers from this kind of neglect,” D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, said Tuesday at a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing.

Mrs. Norton and others criticized the lawn’s condition, saying there are dying trees, trampled grass and a lack of restrooms and other amenities for visitors. They also said pools are dirty and walkways damaged in some spots.



BWI bookkeeping missed $52 million

The Maryland Aviation Administration will recover less than half of $52 million in uncollected contract fees from major airlines at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport under a settlement approved by state officials yesterday.

The fees were undercollected from fiscal 2004 to fiscal 2008 because of calculation errors. One of the biggest errors involved overstating the square feet in a terminal built for Southwest Airlines, a mistake that caused less money to be charged per square foot.

In addition, roughly $57.3 million in contract fees and charges were undercollected.

The Board of Public Works agreed yesterday to a supplemental agreement that recovers about $25 million over five years. The agreement requires the Maryland Aviation Administration to let go the other $32.3 million.

State Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari said lawyers who reviewed the matter for the state found that a successful legal challenge to recoup all of the money would be “limited, given how much time has elapsed.”


Boy, 13, charged in brother’s death

A 13-year-old boy was charged in the shooting death of his older brother, Prince George’s County police said.

Police said the boy was playing with a gun when it went off, striking his brother, Marcus Alexander Williams, 15, in the upper body at their home in the District Heights area March 19.

The 13-year-old boy is charged as a juvenile with second-degree murder. He was released to the custody of his parents.


Summer bus service to start tomorrow

Municipal buses begin operating on a summer schedule tomorrow.

Municipal buses will run every 10 minutes from 6 a.m. to noon; every five to seven minutes from noon until 3 a.m. and every 20 minutes from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m.

Passengers can ride on city buses for $2 a day.

The city trolley schedule also begins tomorrow, with daily service from 4 p.m. until midnight between the Convention Center south lot and Somerset Street.


Ex-bank manager admits theft scheme

A former Bank of America manager pleaded guilty to taking part in a giant embezzlement scheme police say was run for several years out of the District tax office.

Walter Jones, 33, of Essex, pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court here to conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced in September.

According to the plea agreement, Jones became friends with Harriette Walters - the accused ringleader - in the mid-1990s. Between 2000 and 2006, Jones deposited 61 fraudulent D.C. checks worth $17.9 million. In return, he received at least $366,000 from Ms. Walters, the plea agreement states.

Federal prosecutors think at least $20 million was stolen by D.C. tax officials who wrote and cashed phony property-tax refunds. Two other people also have pleaded guilty in the case. Ms. Walters and several others are awaiting trial.



Execution appeal goes to U.S. justices

Attorneys for a man scheduled to be executed Tuesday for killing a Brunswick County convenience store owner yesterday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his execution while justices consider reviewing the case.

Earlier this week, attorneys for Kevin Green, 31, said the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals erred when it ruled in February that he had passed the statute of limitations for claiming ineffective counsel.

The appeals court denied Green’s request for a stay on Monday.

Green was sentenced to die for the August 1998 slaying of Patricia Vaughan, who operated the store with her husband. Green shot the couple and fled with about $9,000.


School for deaf to close June 30

The Virginia School for the Deaf, Blind and Multi-Disabled in Hampton will close at the end of next month, clearing the path to consolidate the state’s two schools for students with visual and hearing impairments.

The state Board of Education voted yesterday to end state-operated programs at the Hampton school, including residential and day-program services, on June 30.

Forty students are enrolled in Hampton’s programs this school year, and all but 14 are graduating or moving to the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind in Staunton, state Department of Education spokesman Charles Pyle said.

The decision is part of a plan approved by the General Assembly in 2006 to consolidate the two schools on the Staunton campus, where about 120 students are enrolled.


Toy boat search ends in drowning

A man who drowned in a lake at Mount Trashmore on Tuesday went under while trying to retrieve a toy boat that had become stuck in the water, authorities said.

The body of Frank Perez, 31, was retrieved from the lake at about 1:15 a.m. yesterday.

Witnesses told police that he went into the lake at about 8 p.m. Police said at least one person tried to rescue him and another called 911 when he didn’t resurface.

Mount Trashmore is a landfill that was converted to a park.


ACLU targets Bible courses

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia is seeking more information on the Craig County School Board’s plans to add a Bible study course.

On May 6, Craig County school officials voted to offer “The Bible in History and Literature” at Craig County High School in the fall.

While schools have a right to teach courses on religious texts such as the Bible, the ACLU said the school system can’t show support for a specific faith such as Christianity.

The ACLU said the course mimics curriculum offered by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. A county in Texas dropped the course this year after eight parents sued last year.


U.S. grant spurs clean coal research

A federal grant will enable Virginia Tech scientists to increase their research on reducing carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal.

Rep. Rick Boucher, Virginia Democrat, said that the Department of Energy has approved a $1.8 million grant for “clean coal” research.

He said the grant will fund a feasibility study for a large-scale test in which 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide would be injected into unmineable coal seams in Southwest Virginia. Conducting the test would require a federal investment of $60 million.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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