- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009


Report: Bay’s health static

A report released Thursday finds the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay did not improve last year, despite increased restoration efforts.

An annual study on the nation’s largest estuary by the Chesapeake Bay Program found that the Bay continues to have poor water quality and degraded habitats. The report cited pollutants caused by agriculture and suburban runoff.

The report found that the population of the Bay’s hallmark blue crabs declined last year to 120 million, a decrease of 23 million from 2007.

There was some good news, however. There was an 18 percent increase in underwater grasses from 2007. The grasses are important because they filter excess nutrients from the water and provide habitat and food for fish.


Protester scales VA building

An Army veteran was arrested Thursday after climbing the Veterans Affairs Department building downtown to hang a sign protesting the Iraq war.

Forrest Schmidt was arrested outside the building, which is less than a block from the White House. Before his arrest, though, Mr. Schmidt had time to hang a large banner over the building entrance that read “Veterans say NO to War and Occupation.”

A group of veterans and anti-war activists is planning to march on the Pentagon on Saturday to mark the sixth anniversary of the Iraq war. The march will continue past the offices of defense contractors, including Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and General Dynamics.



Restaurant raid reveals illegal slots

A raid on a Port Deposit-area restaurant turned up eight slot machines and the owner is facing gambling-related charges, the Cecil County Sheriff’s office said.

Deputies and Comptroller’s Office agents raided Jumbo Jimmy’s on Route 222 and seized cash and receipts for payouts and removed the machines, sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Bernard Chiominto said.

Agents visited earlier this year and saw an employee pay off a machine after a customer acquired a large amount of points, Lt. Chiominto said.

Owner William Barton faces eight counts each of keeping a gaming table and knowing and permitting the use of a gaming table and one count each of permitting the use of a gaming table and keeping a table for the purpose of gambling.


Senate passes bill on SWAT reports

The state Senate on Thursday approved a bill to require law enforcement agencies to issue monthly reports to the attorney general on SWAT team deployments.

The bill, which passed on a 43-0 vote, would require reports on the number, purpose, general location and results of Maryland SWAT team deployments.

The House of Delegates is considering similar legislation.

Last summer, police raided the home and killed the dogs of the Berwyn Heights mayor after drug smugglers sent a package containing 32 pounds of marijuana to his residence. The smugglers hoped to have a courier pick up the package shortly after it was dropped outside Mayor Cheye Calvo’s front door, police say. Officers kicked down the door and shot Mr. Calvo’s dogs during the raid. Authorities later cleared him and his family of any wrongdoing.


Guard members could get tuition help

A measure to exempt members of the Maryland National Guard from paying nonresident tuition at public colleges and universities in the state has been passed by the Maryland Senate.

The bill would take effect July 1.

Currently, members of the state’s National Guard must qualify for in-state status in the same way that other people do. Active duty members of the military are exempt from nonresident tuition, if they are stationed in Maryland or live in the state.

There can be a big tuition savings for nonresidents. For example, in-state tuition was about $8,000 last year, compared with $23,000 for out-of-state students at the University of Maryland in College Park.



Miami man guilty in Virginia fraud

A federal jury in Richmond convicted a Miami businessman Thursday of bilking 577 people out of $132 million.

The jury found Edward Hugh Okun guilty on 23 counts including fraud, money laundering and bulk-cash smuggling. He faces up to 400 years in prison when sentenced Aug. 4. Federal public defender Rob Wagner said the verdict will be appealed.

Okun, 58, owned two Richmond companies that held money from clients seeking to defer capital gains taxes on property sales. Prosecutors said he illegally spent his clients’ money on a lavish lifestyle that included a waterfront mansion, a personal jet, a yacht and jewelry for his new wife.


Kaine approves special-ed rules

Gov. Tim Kaine signed off Thursday on the state Board of Education’s revised special-education regulations.

The board in September approved the regulations, after stripping out two contentious proposals opposed by parents of students with disabilities. One proposal would have allowed schools to stop providing special-education services to students without their parents’ consent. The other proposal would have moved educational appeals hearings from the Virginia Supreme Court to the Department of Education.

Mr. Kaine also opposed the parental-consent issue, which drew thousands of comments from the public, mostly from those who thought it took away parents’ rights.

The rules will be in effect for seven years.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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