- The Washington Times - Monday, November 16, 2009


Bill seeks better autism insurance

Two D.C. Council members are planning to introduce legislation this week that would require insurance companies to improve coverage for children with autism.

Tommy Wells and Muriel Bowser plan to announce details of the legislation Monday and introduce their bill Tuesday.

If the bill passes, the District of Columbia would join a growing number of states that have passed autism insurance requirements.

Many insurers don’t cover treatment for autism. Behavior therapy for an autistic child can cost up to $50,000 a year.



Police seek man in attempted rape

Montgomery County police are searching for a man who attempted to rape a woman as she got off a bus in Aspen Hill.

Police said a man followed the woman off the bus at Bel Pre Road on Saturday evening as she walked toward her apartment complex.

The man forced her into the woods, where he attempted to rape her. The victim resisted and fled; she was treated for minor injuries at a hospital.


Lawyer plans book on D.C. sniper

A Baltimore lawyer who became a confidant of D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad is writing a book about him.

J. Wyndal Gordon volunteered as standby counsel during the 2006 trial in Montgomery County in which Muhammad represented himself. Mr. Gordon said that they forged a strong bond and and that he is working on a book about the case - an idea he says Muhammad suggested.

Muhammad was put to death Tuesday in Virginia for killing Dean Harold Meyers at a Manassas gas station during the October 2002 shooting spree that left 10 people dead and terrorized Maryland, Virginia and Washington.

Mr. Gordon said the book will present Muhammad’s story “without the filters and rules of evidence that prevented him from getting things in court.”


Park opens replica of Banneker cabin

A park in Catonsville has opened a replica of the one-room log cabin where Benjamin Banneker lived.

The historical park and museum — named after the black scientist — opened the replica Thursday, not far from where the original was destroyed during a fire in 1806.

Banneker, who built the original cabin, was born 278 years ago last week.

Ray Clark, vice president of Friends of Benjamin Banneker, said the group wants the 224-square-foot home to be an “educational experience” so people better understand Banneker’s lifestyle.

Group president Bill Lambert said a $400,000 state bond enabled the group to make the cabin as historically correct as possible.


Sweetgum tree hits new height

A sweetgum tree in Cecil County is taking advantage of floods and fertile soil as it grows toward being the state’s biggest sweetgum.

Elk Neck resident Mike Morgan discovered the tree during a hike in Meadow Park and nominated it for measurement. The tree was verified at 91 feet tall with a crown 71 feet across at its widest point.

The state’s tallest sweetgum is in Prince George’s County, but Maryland Big Tree Program coordinator John Bennett said that tree is declining. He said it will pose a hazard because it’s in a veterinarian’s parking lot. When it falls, Mr. Bennett said the tree in Elkton will be the state’s largest sweetgum.

Mr. Bennett said floods of the creek’s waters fertilize the trees with good soil washed south from Pennsylvania.



80 animals saved in pet shop fire

Workers at a Roanoke pet store joined firefighters in safely evacuating puppies, cats and other pets after a backroom fire filled the store with dense smoke.

Workers told the Roanoke Times that they didn’t think twice about rescuing the animals when smoke began filling a PetSmart store Saturday afternoon. About 80 puppies, cats, gerbils and other animals were safely plucked from the Valley View Mall.

One store patron, Erica Vermillion, said she spotted a puppy after the fire and filled out adoption papers immediately. She planned to name her new pet Sparky.

Firefighters said a sprinkler system quickly contained the fire.

No one was reported injured.


Renovated aquarium to open Saturday

The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center will soon unveil its $25 million renovation and expansion.

The renovation is to open Saturday after several delays prevented it from opening as expected on Memorial Day weekend.

The Virginian-Pilot reported Sunday that a coastal Sahara desert habitat will be one of the new exhibits and that scorpions, cobras and hedgehogs will be displayed.

A Red Sea aquarium and Flores Island exhibit will also be on display - along with the much-awaited Komodo dragons.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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