Local Leads: 05/08/2009

News you need to know

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

Nine Injured in Strip Mall Explosion

It all started early Thursday afternoon when employees at neighboring businesses in the Penn Mar shopping center in the 3400 block of Donnell Drive started smelling a gas odor. "I went outside, I saw that gas was coming out from underground," Mohammed Siddique, who owns a neighboring pizza restaurant told News 4.  "Since it was raining, I could see that water was there and it was bubbling." (NBCWashington.com)

Chain Bridge Repairs

If you take the Chain Bridge on your commute, get ready for some lengthy repair work. The D.C. Department of Transportation will begin an eight-month project to strengthen and repaint the bridge starting in June. One of the two inbound lanes will be closed during the entire project. A single lane in each direction will be open, but delays are expected. (WTOP)

Water, Sewer Rates to Rise 9%; More Pipes Will Be Repaired

Residents of Prince George's and Montgomery counties will pay an additional 9 percent for water and sewer service beginning July 1, and more of the decaying underground pipes will be repaired under a new budget approved yesterday by local lawmakers. Under the plan, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission customers will pay $13.50 more on their quarterly bills, which now average $155 for residential customers. (Washington Post)

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Attacks on Homeless Now Hate Crime

A Frederick lawmaker's four-year effort to extend hate crimes protection for homeless people paid off Thursday when Gov. Martin O'Malley signed the bill into law. With the governor's signature, Maryland becomes the first state in the nation to extend such protections to homeless people. The bill, sponsored by Frederick County Sen. Alex Mooney, adds homelessness to the protected categories under Maryland's hate crimes law, which allows prosecutors to seek tougher penalties for those who target people because of factors such as race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. (Frederick News Post)

Fear the Turtle

"Fear the Turtle" may have to fear for its life. University officials are investing more than $1 million over a three-year period to come up with a fresh image for the university, possibly including a new slogan. They hope the new campaign, which they plan to unveil in the fall, will better encapsulate the character of the university. While administrators don't anticipate dropping 'Fear the Turtle' completely, students defended the slogan, saying it has become an integral part of the university's fabric and they would be sad to see it go. (Diamondback)

Silver Spring Girl's Short Film Draws Big Praise

Michele Pinczuk, a self-described pop culture addict, idolizes silver-screen heavyweights like Quentin Tarantino and Robert De Niro. Later this month, the Silver Spring teen will have the chance to meet some of her idols at the Cannes International Film Festival in France. Pinczuk, 15, was shocked and delighted last month to learn that her short film, "L'Chaim Israel" will be included in the lineup of the Short Film Corner at the prestigious Cannes festival which runs from May 13 to May 24. (Gazette.net)

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