- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 21, 2009


Man critically hurt in house explosion

D.C. fire officials are investigating the cause of a house explosion that left a man critically injured.

Fire department spokesman Alan Etter said authorities responded about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday to the two-story house in the 1100 block of 46th Street Southeast.

A 49-year-old man who was inside was taken to a hospital with critical burns. No one else was injured.

Mr. Etter said the explosion ripped off most of the rear of the house. An hour after firefighters extinguished a small basement fire, Mr. Etter said the blaze rekindled on the second floor. He said the house is a total loss.

Propane tanks were found in the backyard and basement, but Mr. Etter said officials don’t know what caused the explosion.

Texas teen wins geography bee

The nation’s top geography whiz breezed through questions about mountain ranges, rivers and world capitals Wednesday, but he was stumped when National Geographic Bee host Alex Trebek asked him to name one of his weaknesses.

“Um …” said Eric Yang, 13, pausing. The Texas teen had just revealed to the “Jeopardy!” host how he crafts his own chess strategies and plays the piano.

“That’s OK,” Mr. Trebek replied. “You remind me of a former president, but we won’t get into that.”

Some in the audience at National Geographic’s headquarters in Washington gasped. Others laughed. But the joke was on Mr. Trebek by the end of the hour as Eric took home the top prize of a $25,000 college scholarship, beating out nine other boys in the finals without missing a single answer.

Eric, of The Colony, Texas, wasn’t stumped on the third question of a tiebreaker round: Timis County shares its name with a tributary of the Danube and is located in the western part of which European country? Eric had it right - Romania. His opponent, Arjun Kandaswamy, 14, of Beaverton, Ore., wrote down “Hungary.”

Giant panda not pregnant

Another panda pregnancy watch has ended in disappointment.

The National Zoo announced Wednesday that its female giant panda, Mei Xiang, is not expecting.

Mei Xiang’s behavior had indicated she might be pregnant, and officials closed the panda house to visitors earlier this month while they monitored her hormone levels and performed weekly ultrasound exams.

The zoo says it has determined that the panda experienced a false pregnancy. Giant female pandas can undergo a false pregnancy when they ovulate but fail to conceive. It’s the fifth time Mei Xiang has had a false pregnancy.

Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated in January with semen from male giant panda Tian Tian. The zoo collected semen from Tian Tian this week to freeze and store as part of a breeding program.



Man arrested in 1996 slaying

Prince George’s County police have arrested a man in the death of a 14-year-old girl who was killed more than a dozen years ago.

Officials said Wednesday that Matthew Bethea, 32, of Glenarden faces first-degree murder and first-degree assault charges in the slaying of Nia Aisha Owens, who was last seen walking to school on Nov. 19, 1996.

Police said Nia was on her way from the Prince George’s Plaza Metro station to her school, but she never reported to class. Her body was found the next morning in a wooded area near the school.

Police said DNA evidence linked Mr. Bethea to the case.

Court records show an arrest warrant was issued for Mr. Bethea on May 13.


Pipe break blamed on faulty work

A report Wednesday said a massive water main break that turned a Bethesda road into a raging river was caused by an incorrectly installed pipe.

The December water main break sent a wave of water down River Road, trapping motorists who were rescued from their cars by helicopters and boats.

A forensic analysis released Wednesday found that the 66-inch pipe was installed directly against a rock, which led to cracks and corrosion. The report says the contractor that installed the pipe 44 years ago failed to cushion it in a bed of gravel.

Teresa Daniell, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission’s interim general manager, says the findings raise concerns about the rest of the 5,500-mile system.


Alderman charged with sex offense

An Annapolis alderman has been charged with a fourth-degree sex offense against a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman.

Annapolis police said Samuel Shropshire, who is running for mayor, also has been charged with second- degree assault. He was charged Tuesday and released on his own recognizance.

The Baltimore Sun reported that Mr. Shropshire said the charges were “absolutely false.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports


No state contracts for fraud convict

The state Board of Public Works has indefinitely barred a Maryland businessman from work on state contracts.

Alan Fabian pleaded guilty last year in federal court to a multimillion-dollar fraud involving the sale and lease of nonexistent computer hardware and software. The board announced its decision at its meeting Wednesday.

Fabian was the finance chairman for Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele’s unsuccessful 2006 Senate campaign.

Between 2001 and 2004, Fabian used his consulting firm to defraud several financial companies of about $32 million. He was sentenced in October and is serving a nine-year prison term.

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