Local Leads: 3/16/09 - NBC4 Washington

Local Leads: 3/16/09

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

    HIV/AIDS REPORT
    At least 3 percent of residents in the nation's capital are living with HIV or AIDS, and every mode of transmission is on the rise, according to a report to be released today by District of Columbia health officials. The findings in the 2008 epidemiology report by the D.C. HIV/AIDS Administration point to a severe epidemic that's impacting every race and sex across the population and neighborhoods. (AP/ The Capital)

    PENSION PLANS SUFFER
    Pension plans for state and local workers in Maryland, Virginia and the District have lost more than $28 billion since last summer and have seen about a quarter of their total value vanish at a time when governments are losing billions in tax revenue to the recession.  Even as pension investments have plummeted, the plans must still cover the same number of retired teachers, police officers, custodians and tax collectors. And the plans are set up so that the size of the recipient's check won't shrink, no matter how far the markets fall. (Washington Post)

    MARYLAND RAISES GLASS TO ALCOHOL TAX
    Some Maryland residents may be raising their glass to a proposed tax increase.  Several Maryland legislators are pushing to raise the state's excise tax on alcoholic beverages. Del. Bill Bronrott (D-Montgomery County) is a sponsor of the legislation and tells WTOP the extra money would be a great help. (wtop.com)

    GOOD NEWS, ARLINGTON UMEMPLOYMENT LOWEST IN COMMONWEALTH
     The news that Arlington again has the lowest unemployment rate among all 134 cities and counties across Virginia will be of little solace to the increasing number of county residents losing jobs. Unemployment among Arlingtonians grew from 3.4 percent in December to 3.7 percent in January, part of an upward spiral as economic malaise settles in across the Old Dominion. (Sun Gazette)

    PILOT PARACHUTES PLANE TO SAFETY
    The pilot of a small plane was saved by parachute before the aircraft crashed in Gaithersburg yesterday afternoon, authorities said. The plane took off about 1:45 p.m. from nearby Montgomery Airpark, ran into problems and attempted to return, said Montgomery County Fire Department spokesman Pete Piringer. The nature of the problems was not immediately known. (AP/Baltimore Sun)

    FREDERICK MURDER MYSTERY
    Tracey Lynn Kirkpatrick would be 37 today, a wife and mother, perhaps, and maybe an attorney. Instead, she is mourned by her parents, her family and her friends. Twenty years after her murder, she is also never far from the minds of the Frederick police investigators, who have worked since March 15, 1989, to solve the mystery of her violent death. The Kirkpatrick family and Frederick police marked the anniversary of Tracey's killing with a brief vigil last night at the Westridge Shopping Center, where she was stabbed to death at 17. (Baltimore Sun)

    NEED FOR ASSISTANCE INCREASES
    The need for emergency food assistance is increasing while donations to Loudoun Interfaith Relief Inc., the county’s only food pantry, are not keeping pace. "We are really in dramatic changes from last year," Bonnie Inman, executive director, said. "A review of our numbers shows we’re almost 53 percent higher in the number of people were helping over last year. We only saw a 14 percent increase last year." Inman said in a typical day, LIR sees 30 families needing food assistance. Now, the nonprofit routinely helps 60-70 families a day. (Ashburn Connection)

    MD SCHOOLS TESTING
    Maryland officials are considering giving a sampling of students an international test next fall to gauge how well the state's public schools are preparing students to compete with others in the world. The test being most closely scrutinized received a critical evaluation from the Brookings Institution recently because it is not geared to testing students on the material they learned in school, but rather on their general knowledge. The Programme for International Student Assessment, known as PISA, was last given in 2006 in 57 countries, including the United States and is scheduled to be given again this fall. While some Maryland students have taken the test in years past, the numbers were so small that the state got no statewide data. The United States ranked 29th out of 57 countries on the science portion and 35th in math. (Baltimore Sun
     
    HERNDON HIGH RECESSIONISTAS
    Students at Herndon High School have become "recessionistas" while preparing for the annual student fashion show this year. Instead of creating fashions from entirely new fabrics, Julie Pickering's students created new clothes out of old clothes that were going to be thrown away or donated. The show culminating the students' hard work will take place March 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium at the high school. Pickering said the idea is one she has been pitching to her students for about four years but it took a few classes and a failing economy to sell them the idea.  (The Observer
     
    LUCK RUNS OUR FOR A PASSENGER FROM IRELAND
    Federal agents at Dulles International Airport have seized shamrock seeds from travelers arriving from Ireland - just days before St. Patrick's Day. Customs and Border Patrol spokesman Stephen Sapp says the agents targeted the Aer Lingus flight on Thursday and had been searching for passengers carrying prohibited meat. (wtop.com/ The Examiner)