- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Duke Ellington quarter released

Jazz musician Duke Ellington has become the first black American to be prominently featured on a U.S. coin in circulation with the release of a quarter honoring the District.

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U.S. Mint and D.C. officials celebrated the release of the coin Tuesday during a ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

“Like many great Americans who succeed in what they love doing, Duke Ellington was equal parts talent, hard work, passion and perseverance,” U.S. Mint Director Ed Moy said.

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was born and raised in the District. He and other black music legends, such as Ella Fitzgerald, helped establish the city’s U Street Northwest as an entertainment corridor.



Amtrak train kills man in ear muffs

A man who was apparently wearing ear muffs has been struck and killed by an Amtrak train on the tracks near Lorton.

Fairfax County authorities said they were called to the area about 11:44 a.m. on Tuesday. The train was traveling from New York City to Charlotte, N.C.

The train engineer blew his horn and tried to stop the train, but the man didn’t get out of the way in time, officials said.

Investigators are trying to identify the man, who authorities say was wearing a UPS uniform.

Trains through the area were stopped temporarily.



Treatment could earn inmates early release

Some inmates could get out early for promising to continue their drug addiction treatment on the outside, Maryland prison officials said.

The public-private program initially will involve up to 250 inmates in the Baltimore area.

Eligible inmates must have served at least 25 percent of their sentences as opposed to the 33 percent that inmates typically serve before becoming eligible for parole or mandatory release, said Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

The project will be funded by private groups including the Open Society Institute, which estimates savings to taxpayers of $3 million.

Drug addicts who continue treatment after prison are significantly less likely to re-offend, the grant-making foundation said.


Judge won’t dismiss open records case

A Montgomery County judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit seeking information about immigration enforcement by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.

Circuit Judge Terrence McGann on Tuesday rejected a defense argument that the sheriff’s office doesn’t exist as an entity and cannot be sued.

The lawsuit was filed in November by the Hispanic immigrant advocacy group CASA de Maryland.

It seeks information about the county’s participation in a federal program that trains local law enforcement officers to enforce immigration laws.


PSC to hear beefs about high bills

The Maryland Board of Public Works will hold a hearing Thursday morning for the Public Service Commission to examine customer complaints about higher gas and electric bills this winter.

The PSC has directed the state’s gas and electric companies to submit explanations for the high winter bills, the number of complaints they have received and their responses to those complaints.

Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. and Pepco, the state’s two largest utilities, say this winter has been colder than last winter and customers have been using more gas and electricity to heat their homes.


State to shorten flounder season

Maryland will impose the first seasonal closure for summer flounder in several years to cut the harvest by a third, state natural resources officials said.

Federal estimates show that flounder remains overfished in Maryland and shortening the season will help Maryland reach its target, officials said Monday. State officials will decide by March 6 when the actual season closure will occur.

Some local anglers are upset, saying the federal government’s system for tracking how many fish are caught in state waters is flawed.

Fishermen had a statewide target of 61,500 flounder for last year, state fisheries officials said. But, according to the federal Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey, they overshot the mark with about 90,000 flounder.


Senate OKs bill on port data secrecy

The state Senate has approved a bill that would make some documents relating to security at Maryland ports exempt from the state’s public information law.

In the measure, approved Tuesday by a 46-0 vote, records could be withheld if public inspection is considered a security threat to a building or could help the planning of a terrorist attack.

Exempted records would include building plans, blueprints, schematic drawings and information on surveillance techniques.

The exemption would not apply to a building that has “been subjected to a catastrophic event,” including fire, explosion or natural disaster. It also would not apply to records relating to an inspection or issuance of a citation relating to a building.

The bill now heads to the House of Delegates.


Couple charged with identity theft

An Ocean City couple have been charged with stealing the identities of their dead relatives for eight years, federal prosecutors said.

Joel Swartz, 65, and his wife, Esther Swartz, 62, were arrested Tuesday on bank fraud and identity theft charges. An indictment against them was returned Jan. 27 and unsealed Tuesday.

From July 2000 until December, prosecutors said, the Swartzes used the credit records of two dead relatives to receive loans and buy air travel, vacations, spa treatments and renovations at their two homes in Ocean City.

The indictment seeks forfeiture of the couple’s homes, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said.


BP Solar offers space for sale

British energy company BP Solar said it is offering to sell or lease a 140,000-square-foot addition to its manufacturing plant in Frederick.

The space was designed for an expansion of the solar-cell plant, but a company spokesman in Houston said increased global competition has forced BP Solar to change its plans.

The company said in October that it would not use the space to expand production.

BP Solar expects to complete the nearly $100 million construction project in early summer, spokesman Tom Mueller said Tuesday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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