Local Leads: 4/17/2010

News you need to know


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

Yvonne Simons was hoping to make it to Amsterdam on Friday to spend time with her father before he has heart surgery next week.
She was scheduled to fly out of Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey on Friday afternoon, but after receiving conflicting messages from Continental Airlines and spending hours on the phone Thursday and Friday, her flight was canceled. Simons, executive director of the Anne Frank Center in New York, is also planning to mark the 50th anniversary of the Anne Frank House on April 28.  Simons was upset when she was told she wouldn't be able to get to Amsterdam until Thursday, missing the time with her father. But Friday afternoon, Continental booked her on a Monday flight.  "The lady I spoke to this morning who tried to help me, really did at the time ... she tried from Frankfurt, to Brussels, to Munich, and nothing worked. But she said that many folks were canceling also. To keep trying at home," Simons wrote in an e-mail.

Until Brian Betts mysteriously failed to appear at work Thursday morning, this is what his many admirers knew about him: He was the energetic new principal of a long-troubled urban school and, within a D.C. school system desperate for heroes, a superstar. But by the end of that day, a group of worried colleagues had found him shot dead in his Silver Spring home, and the upbeat narrative of Betts's two decades of work had become a tragic tale.   The celebrated educator is now at the improbable center of a murder mystery. His blue Nissan Xterra is missing, as is some property in his home. But there was no sign of forced entry into his two-story brick colonial, and it was not ransacked. A source close to the investigation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said police theorize that Betts was killed by somebody he let in.

Besides the crush of tourists, the stifling humidity, and a peculiar ghost-town feel in the Capitol building, a sure sign of summer in Washington is the number of outdoor film festivals that crop up in and around the nation's capitol.   Never mind that the first one arrives in the middle of spring.   The Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID) has announced its 4th annual Outdoor Film Fesitval, to be held Friday nights starting Apr. 30 at Gateway Park at 1300 Lee Highway near the Key Bridge.   The theme this year: "I Heart the 90s."  It's a sequel of sorts to last year's theme, "I Heart the 80s," which Rosslyn BID executive director Cecelia Cassidy says attracted more than 15,000 spectators.   1995's "Clueless" with Alicia Silverstone kicks off the 19-film series. It ends Sept. 3 with Adam Sandler's "Billy Madison."

As congressional investigators dig further into potential electronic problems in runaway Toyotas, the automaker is facing other safety concerns, recalling 600,000 Sienna minivans over rusting spare tire holders.  The recall Friday came as House investigators said they would hold another hearing in May to review possible electronic problems in runaway Toyotas. The Japanese automaker has recalled more than 8 million vehicles because of faulty accelerator pedals, humbling a car company long known for its quality and safety.  Company leaders vowed to respond quickly to the safety concerns.

A day after thrilling kids while speaking up for literacy, actor Danny Glover irritated police while speaking up for mistreated workers.
Glover and 11 others were arrested during a labor union protest at the Sodexo headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md., authorities said.
Glover and others stepped past yellow police tape and were asked to step back three times, Montgomery County police spokesman Capt. Paul Starks said. When they refused, officers arrested them, affixing flexible handcuffs around their wrists, and hauled them in vans to a police facility, Starks said.  Officials issued them citations for trespassing and let them go, Starks said. They face a $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail.

Citing this week's dispute over the existence of a $34 million surplus in the schools budget, the Washington Teachers' Union has asked a D.C. Superior Court judge to reopen its lawsuit challenging Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's decision to order the layoffs of 266 educators last fall.  Union president George Parker and American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said they renewed the court fight for reinstatement of the teachers, who were dropped from the payroll because of what Rhee described as a spending crunch. That was three months before Rhee said she discovered the surplus in late February.

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