Local Leads: 10/27/09 - NBC4 Washington

Local Leads: 10/27/09

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

    The large pink flamingo outside Cafe Hon in Hampden will return to its home. City officials and the owner of the restaurant on The Avenue on Tuesday morning announced an agreement that allows the pink bird, made of bedsheets and wire, to return to its spot atop Cafe Hon's fire escape, where it had been for the past seven years. Owner Denise Whiting said she will pay a reduced annual fee instead of the $800 officials had ordered her to pay for a "minor privilege" permit, most commonly used by businesses whose tables and benches encroach on sidewalks. (Baltimore Sun)

    To Mitchell Goldstein, the flood of sick children seemed endless. Day after day, nearly three times as many kids as usual streamed into the rainbow-colored pediatric emergency room at Johns Hopkins Hospital, sniffling and feverish, worried parents hovering.  The press of children with swine flu was so relentless that doctors opened an annex in a hospital dining room to handle the overflow. "Our worst day" was Sunday, Oct. 11, says Goldstein, one of the ER doctors. "We had 15 to 20 patients an hour. It was 24/7. There wasn't a lull." (USAToday) 
    Serious gang-related crime in Northern Virginia has dropped since 2004, but officials are concerned that middle schools are emerging as epicenters of gang activity and recruitment, according to a report from the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force.  In 2007, according to the report, middle schools accounted for about 35 percent of gang offenses in the area's public schools, compared with about 27 percent in 2003. Still, gang offenses in public schools in 2007 were down about 37 percent from a high point the year before, the report said. (Washington Post)

    Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jerry Weast said in a memo released Monday that falling graduation rates and rising dropout numbers were "discouraging" and defied easy solutions.  Weast wrote that the graduation rates of black and Hispanic students, which have decreased at faster rates than their white and Asian peers, were especially disheartening.  Despite "myriad strategies" to keep students in school, "we continue to lose students, and there appear to be as many unique sets of factors and facts as there are students who drop out," Weast said.  (Examiner)

    The Maryland Transit Administration plans to dispatch security and canine teams to randomly screen riders on its MARC rail lines, the agency said Monday. Starting Oct. 30, security teams will begin random security screenings at stations on the Penn, Camden and Brunswick lines. The screenings will focus on luggage, packages and other carry-on items riders bring to the station. The MTA hopes to conduct the searches “in a timely fashion” but is warning customers to be prepared for extra time to board their trains. (Washington Business Journal

    Five Virginia Department of Corrections officers have been charged with animal cruelty involving the fondling of a K-9 dog and videotaping the two incidents. All five officers were training at the Academy for Staff Development in Goochland County to become K-9 handlers. They were charged across the James River in Powhatan County where the kennel is located, at the Powhatan Correctional Center. Facing misdemeanor animal-cruelty charges are Kelvin Thompson, 25, who works at Green Rock Correctional Center in Chatham; Melvin Boone, 40, who worked at the state prison in Sussex County; Adam R. Webb, 27, and Cheri Campbell, 35, who work at Nottoway Correctional Center; and Anthony Eldridge, 33, a sergeant who worked at Nottoway. (Star Exponent)