Local Leads: 12/02/2008

News you need to know

The following stories have been hand-selected by the Assignment Desk at News4:

The United States can expect a terrorist attack using nuclear or, more likely, biological weapons before 2013, reports a bipartisan commission in a study being briefed Tuesday to Vice President-elect Joe Biden. The report suggests the Obama administration bolster efforts to counter and prepare for germ warfare by terrorists. (AP/USAToday)

In its second attempt to persuade Congress to grant the U.S. auto industry $25 billion in emergency loans, Chrysler plans to make the case that automakers can cut their costs and point to the future by forging an alliance to share fuel-efficient vehicle technologies.  Ford will tell lawmakers that it intends to retool plants for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars as a part of its goal of becoming the fuel-efficiency leader in every vehicle category. General Motors will address its $43.3 billion debt burden and an upcoming multi-billion-dollar payment to a union-run trust that will cover employee health-care costs. (Washington Post)

The market was up slightly in early trading today as investors picked up cheap stocks after yesterday's major sell-off. After falling almost 680 points yesterday, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 2.3 percent, or 189 points. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index was up 2.7 percent, or 22 points, while the tech-heavy NASDAQ was up 2.3 percent, or 33 points. (Washington Post)

Oil prices fell to a three-year low below $48 a barrel Tuesday as more bleak U.S. economic news and plunging stock markets darkened investor expectations for energy demand.  By midday in Europe, light, sweet crude for January delivery was down 71 cents to $48.57 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier in the session, prices briefly fell to $47.36, the lowest since 2005. (USAToday)

Residents of a burning farmhouse on Glade Road rescued children and dogs Monday night. The fire started with a mattress on a second floor bedroom then spread to other rooms nearby and into the attic and roof, said Nick Fyock, chief of the Woodsboro Volunteer Fire Company. No one was injured, he said. The company was called around 6:30 p.m. and the fire was under control within an hour. (Frederick News-Post)

The woman accused of kidnapping a 5-year-old boy from an Alexandria shopping center plans to mount an insanity defense, according to court documents obtained by WTOP. Falah Octavia Joe is charged with kidnapping of Kamron Wells from the Plaza at Landmark shopping center in October. During a previous court hearing, Joe claimed the boy was outside in the cold by himself.  (WTOP.COM)

Since the first day of school in September, the city's school system has been groaning under the weight of an unexpected spike in enrollment. Total membership is up 703 students since last October, which represents an increase of 7 percent increase over last year's enrollment. School officials say that's an increase higher than any other division in Virginia, a trend that's expected to add 12 percent to the total student population over the next five years. "The high enrollment numbers affect more than just classroom teachers, they affect the whole system" said Melynda Wilcox, president of the Alexandria PTA Council. "It means that the school psychologists have a higher caseload and the music teachers will have to teach additional classes." (Alexandria Gazette Packet)

In a new online video, Gens. Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee appear together, able to finally agree on one thing: Wal-Mart's plan to build a Supercenter on a portion of the Wilderness battlefield is preposterous.The re-enactors' point is also driven home in a mass mailer sent by another group last week to 16,000 Orange County households. As the world's largest retailer prepares an application for a special-use permit for a store at the intersection of State Routes 3 and 20, battle lines are being drawn. The video was produced by Wal-MartWatch.com, an anti-Wal-Mart Web site, based in Washington, D.C. It is linked to anti-sprawl activist Al Norman, whom Fortune Magazine once labeled "Wal-Mart's enemy No. 1." (Free-Lance Star)

As layoffs, foreclosures and rising utility bills force more families to seek help, many tri-state area food banks are cutting back on portions and turning to emergency funds as they struggle to keep up with the demand. "It's been tough," said Mary Anna Kline, coordinator of the food bank at Williamsport Zion Lutheran Church, which has seen the number of people served nearly double in recent months. There, the food bank has already used all of the 7,500 pounds of food collected at the Harvest Hoedown in October and is quickly using up the approximately $12,000 raised at that event, Kline said.  (Herald-Mail)

Marylanders, affected like everyone else by the economy, are spending less -- except when it comes to lottery tickets. According to lottery officials, sales of instant scratch-off tickets are up almost $45 million from the same time last year. Total lottery sales are up by almost $10 million during the first 10 months of 2008. (AP/WTOP.COM)

Just in time for the holiday tourist season, Congressional leaders finally throw open the doors to the new Capitol Visitors Center Tuesday. But when those doors open to the public after the formal ceremonies, what will visitors find when they get to the newest tourist attraction in D.C.?  (WTOP.COM)

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