Local Leads: 2/23/09

News you need to know

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

BUDGET CUTS IN FAIRFAX
Fairfax County Executive Anthony H. Griffin this morning proposed cutting back library hours, scaling back services for the elderly, increasing fees for youth sports and cutting more than 800 county staff positions to mend a budget ravaged by plummeting home values and the deteriorating economy.  (Washington Post

IT'S GOING TO GET WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER...
Brace yourself: The recession is projected to worsen this year. The country stands to lose a sizable chunk of economic activity in 2009 as consumers at home and abroad retrench in the face of persistent economic troubles. And the U.S. unemployment rate — now at 7.6 percent, the highest in more than 16 years — is expected hit a peak of 9 percent this year. (ap/Insidenova.com)

LONG AND FOSTER CHIEF SAYS HOUSING WILL REBOUND!
David Stevens, president and chief operating officer of Chantilly-based Long & Foster Cos., is confident that a revived real estate market will boost the nation’s economy. “I’m a firm believer, and I think many economists are firm believers, that the first thing we need to do to help get things back on track is to get those who are ready, willing and able to buy a home to take advantage of the marketplace,” he said. (Sun Gazette)

MARYLAND CAR DEALERS HOPE TAX BREAK HELPS SALES
With the federal economic stimulus package signed into law, Maryland auto dealers are hopeful an amendment to give consumers a tax break for buying cars this year will help rev up slumping sales. The provisions, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., will give qualified buyers about a $300 to $600 state sales and excise tax deduction. The deal applies to all cars costing up to $49,500; it expires Dec. 31. (The Capital)

OPERATION CROSS COUNTRY
The FBI has rescued more than 45 suspected teenage prostitutes, some as young as 13, in a nationwide sweep to remove kids from the illegal sex trade and punish their accused pimps. Over a three-night initiative called Operation Cross Country, federal agents working with local law enforcement also arrested more than 50 alleged pimps, according to preliminary bureau data. (ap/The Capital)

MOBILE CLINIC SUSPENDS OPERATION
The Fredericksburg region's mobile health clinic will suspend operations next month, reducing medical options for the poor and uninsured. The Mary Washington Hospital Auxiliary Mobile Health Clinic will stop seeing patients after March 5. About 1,900 adults and children receive medical care there. Officials of MediCorp Health System, which operates the clinic, said the resignation of the clinic's nurse practitioner gave them a chance to re-evaluate the program. They said they were not sure when the program might resume. (Free Lane-Star)

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WASHINGTON BALLET MEMBER KILLED
The Washington Ballet Company is canceling the rest of its Studio Company tour after a 20-year-old dancer was fatally injured when she was struck by a car Friday while on tour in Harford County. Mary Saludares was crossing Route 24 at Edgewood Road about 10 p.m. when she was hit, police said. She died early Saturday. Saludares began dancing at the age of 6 while living in the Philippines, according to a statement from the Washington Ballet Company. She was selected to join the Studio Company for its 2008-2009 season. "She was not only a beautiful dancer but a radiant soul who emitted peace and joy," said artistic director Septime Webre. "The entire TWB family mourns her passing and extends its thoughts and prayers to Mary's family."  (Baltimore Sun)

MARYLAND WINE LOVERS REJOICE!
The menu may expand for area wine enthusiasts if a bill before the General Assembly passes. Under current law, which dates back to Prohibition, wine can neither be shipped from outside the state, nor within it, to Maryland homes. So if a wine enthusiast wants to swirl a pinot noir from a small vineyard in Napa Valley, for example -- one that can't be found in his neighborhood liquor store -- he can't order a case online and have it delivered to his doorstep. Instead, the law involves a three-tiered model, using a state-licensed wholesaler as a middleman between the retailer and the consumer. (The Capital

MILK PRICES DROPPING
Dairy farmers are bracing for a sharp drop in milk prices.  The projected imminent decrease is beyond the pale of the normal ebb and flow of the market, observers say. (Herald-Mail)

RESTAURANTS SUFFERING?
Cash-strapped consumers are getting reacquainted with cooking at home, and that's been bad news for restaurants and their stocks.  The dining-out industry is suffering through a major fire in the kitchen. Slowing business is forcing chains to shutter locations. Restaurants that remain open are seeing a drop-off in sales. Shares of the top 26 restaurant companies have seen their stocks lose an average 49.3% of their value from their highest points over the past 52 weeks. That's been an even harsher pullback than the 46.5% decline of the Standard & Poor's 500 from its 52-week high. (USAToday
 
HOTEL SHORTEST STAY FOR A BETTER RATE
Select Fairfax County hotels are participating in the "Shortest Rate Celebration" in which the price guests pay for a Saturday night stay is determined by the height of the shortest person in their party, including children.  The promotion is currently running and will continue through April 30. A minimum two night stay is required for this promotional offer, and regular hotel rates will apply to any nights beyond the Saturday night stay. Hotel reservations must also be booked a minimum of 72 hours in advance. (Fairfax Times)

75 DOGS DROPPED AT THE SHELTER
Animal control officials say a Thurmont man has turned over 75 dogs that a St. Mary's County couple asked him to care for temporarily. Frederick County Animal Control Director Harold Domer says the man tried to get the couple to help him care for the dogs, but they never returned his calls and he looked for help elsewhere. (WTOP.com / Frederick News Post)
 

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