Local Leads: 11/19/2008

News you need to know

The following stories have been hand-selected by the assignment desk at News4:

The car belonging to a woman who mysteriously vanished from her Fairfax County home has been found with a body inside. Police found Erika Yancey's car at about 2 a.m. Wednesday in the 13000 block of Sunrise Valley Drive in Reston, Va.  An officer spotted the vehicle and saw a woman's body inside.  An autopsy will determine the identity. Yancey's property manager at the Camden Dulles Station apartments called police Monday after another resident discovered a trail of blood leading from the parking lot to a dumpster. (NBCWashington.com)

Consumer prices plummeted at the sharpest rate on record in October as a slowing economy caused energy costs to drop for a third month, according to a Labor Department report Wednesday. The widely watched consumer price index fell 1 percent, exceeding forecasts by Wall Street analysts for a 0.8 percent decline and the biggest drop since the department began keeping monthly data in 1947. (Reuters/ USA Today)

Washington National Cathedral plans to slash its budget dramatically and lay off 30 percent of its staff to close a widening budget gap, leaders said yesterday. Just six months after its last round of cuts, the century-old institution plans to shut down a historic building on its grounds, cut back on choir performances, shrink its lecture and class schedule, outsource its retail operation and rely on volunteers to take over other functions, the Rev. Samuel Lloyd III, dean of the Episcopal cathedral, said in an interview yesterday. "This is a very difficult time and it breaks my heart what we're doing with our staff," Lloyd said. (Washington Post

Revamped security and discipline policies, more specialized schools, a "Parent Academy" to help District parents take charge of their children's education and the possibility of more school closures are part of the long-term vision proposed by Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee in a new document. (Washington Post)

Democratic Congressman Xavier Becerra promised yesterday to "fight tooth and nail" against any effort to begin charging admission for the Smithsonian Institution museums, speaking at the first open meeting of its governing board in 162 years. A questioner suggested the Smithsonian couldn't afford to continue offering free access to its museums on the National Mall during tough economic times. The response from an audience of about 400 gathered at the National Museum of Natural History was a round of "boos." (AP / The Capital)

Elected officials in one northern Virginia locality plan to ask the General Assembly for permission to ban the use of low-quality plastic bags at supermarkets and other retail outlets. If the idea makes its way through the legislature, it could affect how groceries and other items are bagged in jurisdictions across the region, including Fairfax County. The proposal is part of a draft legislative package expected to formally be adopted by Arlington County Board members in December. It will then be disseminated to the six members of Arlington's legislative delegation. (Sun Gazette)

For more than 40 years, Notre Dame Academy in Middleburg has served as a private, independent Catholic high school for students in Loudoun County and the surrounding region.  Now, a recent decision by the school's board of trustees has shaken that deep-rooted foundation, leaving some parents and students shocked, and the school community with a sense of uncertainty. "We want a Catholic school," said Diane Beauchamp, whose son Thomas is a freshman. "There are other schools out there that are private that are better academically, but I want that Catholic factor. I want my children to be balanced, and our Catholic faith is what really lays that foundation." (Loudoun Times)

The Prince George's County Council adopted one of the nation's most sweeping restrictions on the sale of cigars yesterday, an effort to curb a growing trend among urban youths of using hollowed-out cigars to smoke marijuana. The council voted 8 to 1 to ban the sale of single cigars, requiring stores to sell them in packages of at least five. The new law will also make it easier to charge someone possessing a cigar with a drug paraphernalia offense. (Washington Post)

Virginia Department of Transportation has some advice for motorists traveling during the Thanksgiving holiday: Leave early. The department said Tuesday that motorists should hit the road before noon on Nov. 26 to beat most of the traffic. Congestion levels vary by region and direction of travel. Since 2003, the department has collected speed and traffic volume data for major interstates using pavement sensors. The heaviest interstate traffic will likely occur between noon and 8 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving.

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