Local Leads: 10/3/2009 - NBC4 Washington

Local Leads: 10/3/2009

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    New Shoulder Replacement Procedure Gives the Gift of Movement
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    The following stories have been hand-selected by the Assignment Desk at News4:

    In one of the most turbulent days in its recent history, the D.C. public schools system laid off more than 200 teachers Friday and coped with the abrupt loss of its 300 security guards, whose company went out of business overnight Thursday.  The combination of events, which included a skirmish between students and police at McKinley Technology High School that resulted in two arrests, highlighted the challenges faced by Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) as they struggle to reform the troubled system in lean economic times. The layoffs were the deepest cuts for the school system since 2003.  In all, 388 school employees received separation notices, the latest jolt to a system that has seen broad and sometimes wrenching change under Rhee. The schools chief has rolled out a tough evaluation regimen that links some instructors' job security to standardized test scores and raised the bar for other educators with an elaborate set of classroom requirements and guidelines.

    For Jodi Handin Goldman, participating in AIDS Walk Washington is a way for her to pay tribute to her late brother, Mitchell Handin, who died in 1996 of AIDS complications.  “It validates to me — and then it helps me to validate to American society — that he was a vibrant, young man and was alive and well at one time, and he left a mark, not only in me, his blood sister, but … other people’s lives,” she said.  Goldman of Annapolis, Md., said participating in the walk also would help “raise the level of awareness that the HIV virus is still alive and well” and raise funds for the Whitman-Walker Clinic, which is organizing the walk.  As of Wednesday, Goldman said she had raised about $4,300. She has a personal goal of raising $5,000 before Saturday’s walk begins.  Goldman is among the approximately 10,000 people expected to participate in the AIDS Walk to highlight the HIV/AIDS epidemic and help raise money for testing and treatment services at the Whitman-Walker Clinic.  Participants in the 5K walk, which begins and ends at Freedom Plaza in D.C., can walk the distance or run in a footrace to show support.

    The body spotted Friday by a Verizon worker in an underground cable vault in North Baltimore's Mid- Govans neighborhood was that of a decomposed white female, and detectives are awaiting the results of an autopsy, according to police.  The telephone cable splicer, Barry Schwaab, said he had been preparing to do routine maintenance on buried lines and was about to climb down into the vault through a manhole when he saw the body lying face-down in about 5 feet of water. The vault is on a wide alley off Benninghaus Road, just east of York Road.  "It was a shocker," Schwaab said, adding that he quickly called 911.  Police and firefighters arrived about 10:15 a.m. After Verizon workers pumped all but a foot of water from the hole, two firefighters with the Special Rescue Operations unit put on wetsuits and air masks and were lowered by a pulley to the bottom. They put the body on a stretcher and used the pulley to hoist it out of the hole about 1:35 p.m.

    With the D.C. Council poised to set up a business improvement district in historic Anacostia, many business owners there are unaware of the latest effort to boost one of the city's poorest and most underdeveloped sectors.  The BID would tax commercial and retail properties on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, Anacostia Drive, Shannon Place, and Howard and Good Hope roads.  Property owners on those streets would pay 21 cents for every $100 of the property's assessed value to market the district and hire crews make the area a cleaner, more welcoming place to shop and do business.  The tax, presumably, would then get passed down from landlord to lessee.  "There's no way I could handle an increase in taxes or rent," said Dr. Lewis Levine, owner of the Anacostia Neck and Back Center, after being told about the BID by a reporter. Levine said his revenue fell by two-thirds in the past year, and a new tax would put him out of business.  The D.C. Council last week voted unanimously in favor of the measure, introduced by Marion Barry, D-Ward 8.

    Late-night hosts didn't waste a moment poking fun at the troubles of one of their own, after a CBS newsman was charged with trying to blackmail David Letterman for $2 million in a plot that forced the late-night comic to acknowledge having sex with some of the women who have worked for him.  The bizarre case has created a messy legal and professional problem for one of CBS' most valuable personalities. Commentators and bloggers quickly accused Letterman of hypocrisy because he has made a career of mocking politicians mercilessly, often for their sexual transgressions.  Robert J. "Joe" Halderman, a producer for the true-crime show "48 Hours Mystery," pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan court to one count of attempted first-degree grand larceny, punishable by five to 15 years in prison. Prosecutors said Halderman, who was released after posting $200,000 bail, was desperate and deep in debt.  Jay Leno, Letterman's longtime late-night rival, kicked off his monologue Friday on NBC: "If you came here tonight for sex with a talk show host, you've got the wrong studio."

    The husband of former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has quit his oil field job on the North Slope.  Todd Palin's resignation as a production operator for oil giant BP PLC comes almost two months after his wife stepped down as Alaska governor and shortly before the release of her highly anticipated memoir in a deal rumored to be worth millions.  "Todd loved his union job on the Slope and hopes to return," Meghan Stapleton, Sarah Palin's personal spokeswoman, said in an e-mail Friday. "For now, he is spending time with his family."  The resignation was effective Sept. 18, according to BP spokesman Steve Rinehart.