The following stories have been hand-selected by the Assignment Desk at News4:
UNEMPLOYMENT UP IN FAIRFAX
Fairfax County's unemployment rate has gone up sharply in recent months, sending more and more people like Robert Hargrove to the job fair circuit. "It's a fight against time," Hargrove said of the job search process. He has been living off savings since he was laid off in January from an information technology and telecom company where he worked for 10 years. (Fairfax Times)
CIGARETTE TAX KICKS IN TODAY..
Mike Droneburg entered the tobacco outlet on South Jefferson Street on Tuesday afternoon and bought a pound of rolling tobacco. He wanted to stock up before the federal excise tax kicked in today. That tax on pipe tobacco will jump from $1.09 a pound to $2.83 a pound. The federal tax on every pack of cigarettes will go up from 39 cents to $1.01. (Frederick News Post)
ASBESTOS AT THE AMERICAN HISTORY MUSEUM?
Members of a steamfitters union local said that in 2007, asbestos dust filled the air during renovation of the National Museum of American History because contractors repeatedly failed to take legally required precautions while removing insulation. A Smithsonian spokeswoman said that as soon as institution safety workers found the problems, they immediately corrected procedures and turned off fans. The museum was closed to the public at the time during a two-year renovation, but American History's full-time staff of curators and employees continued to work in the building. (Washngton Post)
VIRGINIA SCHOOL DROPOUT RATES
Just over 10 percent of Prince William County students who entered the ninth grade in 2004 dropped out before graduating, according to a report released by the Virginia Department of Education Tuesday. According to the report, of the 5,048 students who enrolled in the ninth grade in Prince William County Schools in 2004, 83.3 percent graduated on time and 10.1 percent dropped out before their classmates graduated in 2008.
MARYLAND LOST PERSONAL INFORMATION
The names and Social Security numbers of about 8,000 state employees and retirees were in a report "lost in the mail" this month, raising concerns about identity theft and questions about why sensitive information was sent through the postal service rather than electronically. Maryland officials say there is no evidence that the information was stolen or misused, but the Department of Budget and Management has suggested compromised employees place a "fraud alert" with national credit-rating agencies as a precaution. (Baltimore Sun)
SPEED CAMERAS COMING TO MARYLAND
Automated cameras that result in $40 citations for owners of vehicles caught speeding could be coming to many parts of Maryland under a plan that surfaced Tuesday in the state Senate and appears likely to become law. Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley has been seeking a statewide expansion of speed cameras, which generated nearly $10 million in fines last year through a pilot program in Montgomery County, the only jurisdiction where they are now allowed. (Baltimore Sun)
IT WASN'T SPACE JUNK AFTERALL...
An apparent fireball that streaked across Prince George's skies Sunday evening, startling and alarming many residents, is now believed by experts to be a meteor and not a fallen Russian rocket. County residents and people throughout Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina witnessed the phenomenon, according to news reports. (Gazette)