Thursday, May 22, 2008


National Mall endures ‘neglect’

The national 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.

The heavily used Mall stretches from the U.S. Capitol to the Potomac River, with the Washington Monument rising from the middle.



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. Discount coupon books are available at City Hall, the Convention Center, the police department and the Northside Park Recreation Complex.

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


Police identify victim in pond

Local police have released the name of a Mardela Springs man found dead over the weekend in Mitchell’s Pond in west Salisbury.

Police said difficulties contacting the family of 34-year-old Emmanuel Johnson caused his name to be withheld for several days.

Charging documents say Mr. Johnson’s body was found floating in the pond, about 15 feet offshore.

Sixteen-year-old Marquel Brumskin and a 15-year-old have been charged with second-degree murder. Brumskin is charged as an adult.

Police said the suspects were seen fighting with Mr. Johnson near the pond Saturday night.



Execution appeal goes to U.S. justices

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

Earlier this week, 31-year-old Kevin Green’s attorneys asserted 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’s attorneys sought the delay yesterday with the nation’s highest court.

Green is 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.


Toy boat search ends in drowning

Authorities said a local 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.

The body of 31-year-old Frank Perez was retrieved from the lake about 1:15 a.m. yesterday.

Witnesses told police he went into the lake about 8 p.m. Tuesday trying to retrieve a motorized toy boat. Police say at least one person tried to rescue him and another called 911 when he didn’t resurface.

Boat and dive teams searched for the man but were unsuccessful.

Mount Trashmore is a landfill that has been 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 like the Bible, the ACLU says the school system can’t show support for a specific faith such as Christianity.

The ACLU says 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.

The Virginia ACLU filed a Freedom of Information request with the Craig County School Board to learn more about the course.


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 (DOE) 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 an unmineable coal seams in Southwest Virginia. Conducting the test would require a DOE investment of $60 million.

A smaller test is to begin in Russell County this summer. Mr. Boucher said coal has a great capacity to store carbon dioxide.

The announcement brings the total federal investment in the carbon storage project to $6.34 million.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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