Local Leads: 12/5/08

News you need to know

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

For six years, North Bethesda United Methodist Church has operated a Christmas tree lot on its grounds at Lone Oak Drive and Old Georgetown Road. And for six years, it opened right after Thanksgiving. The money raised helped fund missions and other church programs, including a medical clinic in Tanzania.  But last week, somebody -- county officials aren't saying who -- dropped a dime.  Turns out the churchgoing folks at North Bethesda have been breaking the law. According to county code, for more than 30 years it's been illegal to sell a Christmas tree in Montgomery County before Dec. 5. Those caught taking cash, credit cards or checks for a tree before then can be fined $500.  (Washington Post)

Santa and Mrs. Claus may have a little trouble getting around this Christmas Eve. Their reindeer are missing. Dale and Trish Parris of Stafford County often portray the jolly couple in Fredericksburg-area events, but this year, they've lost a bit of their holiday spirit. The Parrises, who will take part in the Colonial Beach Christmas parade this weekend, came home yesterday to find two of their treasured reindeer lawn decorations missing, said their daughter, Christie Munn.
(Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star)

JoEllen Murphy, a 39-year-old Catholic who lives in McLean, started a grassroots Internet campaign after hearing about the humanist ads that started appearing last month on Metrobuses.
Murphy’s ad shows an image from Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” on the Sistine Chapel ceiling with the slogan: “Why believe? I created you and I love you, for goodness’ sake. – God.” As of Thursday evening, 557 people had joined Murphy’s “I Believe Too” Facebook page and 120 donors had contributed more than $5,700. The ad-hoc group said they sent a check and a signed ad contract to Metro on Thursday for 200 ads to go behind bus drivers’ seats. (DC Examiner)

Maryland's tenuous budget situation is about to hit state workers in the pocketbook. Under a proposal announced yesterday, many state employees would be forced to take between two and five days of unpaid leave. That would save the state $34 million as officials try to address an anticipated $150 million budget deficit this fiscal year. The plan was sent by T. Eloise Foster, the secretary of the Department of Budget and Management, to union officials yesterday. It will not be final until Gov. Martin O'Malley issues an executive order. (The Capital)

Plan on taking Metrorail to the inaugural ceremonies on Jan. 20? Be ready to hit the stairs.  The transit agency says it expects to shut down and lock numerous escalators at high volume stations on the day of the inauguration. That means riders may have to walk up or down some of Metro's notoriously long escalators as they enter and exit stations.  "If there are a huge amount of people entering the station at one time, it is not unusual for the escalators to be turned off, and this is for (people's) own safety," says Metro spokesperson Candace Smith. (WTOP)

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