Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Masked 'Hillary Clinton' robs Va. bank

A gun-toting man in a Halloween-style mask robbed a Sterling bank on Dec. 27, authorities said.
It appeared that the man wore a Hillary Clinton mask, according to Kraig Troxell, spokesman for the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office. 

Shortly after 9 a.m., the man walked into the Wachovia bank in Community Plaza, approached a teller, brandished a firearm, and demanded cash, according to Loudoun County sheriff’s office reports.

The robber, who authorities described as a black male around 6 feet tall, then fled in an unknown direction with an undisclosed amount of cash. He was seen wearing a black jacket with a red shirt underneath.

No injuries were reported, says Kraig Troxell, spokesman for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, which distributed a surveillance image from the robbery.

This robbery is not the first for the Wachovia bank in Sterling’s Community Plaza this year. On Nov. 20, authorities said the bank was robbed at gunpoint by Benjamin L. Sebastian, 32, of Inwood, W.Va.
Sebastian was arrested Dec. 11 and charged with six regional bank robberies, including the Sterling Wachovia bank and an Oct. 6 armed robbery of the Bank of America in Sterling’s Regal Plaza.
He remains in police custody.

Authorities are asking anyone with information about the incident to contact Investigator K. Poland of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office at 703-777-0475.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Even with missed storm, cleanup is pricey

Read it at the Washington Post's local breaking news blog, Post Now.

After criticism over slow response times to snowmageddon last winter, local jurisdictions and state transportation agencies weren't going to be caught unaware this time.

A number of weather services predicted the first major snowstorm of the year over Christmas weekend. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) both issued preemptive state of emergency declarations.

And then the storm never came. D.C. was left with only a dusting of snow. A Capital Weather Gang map shows how close we were to getting pummeled.

Preparation for the no-show snow didn't come cheap.

The Virginia Department of Transportation spent "well over a million dollars" in Northern Virginia over the weekend, spokeswoman Joan Morris told TBD. The department had about 1,700 trucks on the road.

But with $33 million to spend on snow removal in Northern Virginia this year, according to the Washington Examiner, the Virginia Department of Transportation should be just fine. Both Maryland and Virginia increased their snow removal budgets this year.

Karyn LeBlanc, a spokeswoman for the District Department of Transportation says the department estimated it spent more than $500,000 over the weekend, according to TBD.

Montgomery County had 400 people and 375 trucks ready to go at 2 a.m. Sunday, though they went home 14 hours later. Arlington County had about 150 employees out over a 24-hour period.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dear Metro, I hate that I love you so (#metroloveletter)

By Elizabeth Flock
Read it at the Washington Post

I didn't know you three months ago when I moved to Washington from Chicago. I knew the El, which runs on time, doesn't do random searches, and would never, ever tell me not to eat my breakfast on the train.

I have to tell you something, Metro. You're late. All the time. This morning you stood me up when I had a meeting at work to get to. For half an hour I stood on the platform. You kept me hanging when the "Mad Men" finale was starting and my roommate disabled TiVo. I've fallen in your potholes you call construction one too many times. I've broken a sweat on the way to a date when the Woodley Park escalator was broken, again. And that thing you call a SmarTrip card? I'm onto you. I figured out pretty fast that that card charges me just the same.

What about when I want to get home late at night, after getting better acquainted with your city's watering holes, and I need you the most? You're not there at all. You're shut, with cold metal bars blocking your entrance. Should you really expect me to keep coming back?

But that's the problem, Metro. I will come back, because I love you.

Ever since I met you, Metro, I can't get enough. I'm there every morning from Woodley Park to Farragut North, and every night I take you home.

I could get to work another way. Capital Bike Share looks pretty tempting some mornings, with those glistening red bikes all lined up in a pretty row. I could walk, try the bus or drive. I don't. I take you.
Because you're easy. And you're there. Your yawning ceilings make me feel small, but in a good way. Your SmarTrip card makes me feel important. Your scary octopus Metro map has tentacles that go everywhere I want to go. I've read countless Express newspapers while hanging on to the overhead rail for dear life. And it turns out, by forcing me to eat breakfast at home, you make me a better person. These days, my dress stays coffee-free all day.

I hate that I love you, Metro. But I do.

A lot of us do. We're taking you more every day.

This is my love letter to the Metro. What's yours? Tell me why -- despite the delays, the broken escalators, the constant problems -- you still love the Metro. Write it in the comments or send a tweet using the hashtag #metroloveletter.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Minerals in consumer electronic devices help finance civil war in Congo

By Elizabeth Flock 
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 13, 2010; 6:21 PM 

Read it at The Washington Post. 

As you arm yourself with electronic gifts over the next few weeks, you probably won't think about the minerals your new cellphone, laptop or digital camera runs on. But no matter which company made the gadget, it's likely to be powered using tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold, all of which are mined in Eastern Congo, where profits contribute to financing the country's bloody war.

Rebel groups and the national army control many of Eastern Congo's mines. Over the past decade, more than 5 million people have died, and hundreds of thousands of women have been raped in the struggle for power, according to the Raise Hope for Congo campaign. While the Congolese government has expressed interest in tackling the multimillion-dollar trade in minerals, the involvement of its own troops has led critics to question their efforts.

The West has long been aware of this problem, though hard facts are difficult to establish: A 2008 U.S. Geological Survey report found that less than 10 percent of tantalum (the mineral used to make capacitors in most cellphones and iPods) imported to the United States is from Congo. But one human rights group, the Enough Project, estimates that Congolese armed groups make $8 million per year trading in that mineral alone.

Electronics companies argue that the supply chain is nearly impossible to track: There are thousands of companies, they say, that leave little or no paperwork. Manufacturers use Congolese minerals, which cost only one-half or one-third the price of those mined in other countries - due to large quantitites of minerals close to the surface, lack of regulation and cheap labor - leaving the American consumer with no way of knowing whether their purchases are subsidizing warfare half a world away.

The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed in July, seeks to change that, by requiring manufacturers to identify so-called conflict minerals and eliminate them from their supply chains.
              Image of a child miner in the Congo, via Grassroots Group's photostream on flickr.