Local Leads: 9/6/2009

News you need to know


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

Presidential adviser Van Jones is resigning after coming under fire for signing a controversial petition regarding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  The White House issued a statement late Saturday saying that Jones was giving up his post at the Council on Environmental Quality, where he helped coordinate government agencies focused on delivering millions of green jobs to the ailing U.S. economy.  Jones, who denied agreeing with the petition and issued an apology last week, said he was a victim of health-care reform opponents.  "On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me," Jones said in the statement. "They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide."

Northern Virginia's first-ever confirmed case of a rare mosquito-borne disease that is fatal to most horses is spreading concern among health officials who worry that the virus is somehow moving beyond its normal stamping grounds. Eastern equine encephalitis, a noncontagious virus spread by mosquitoes, not unlike West Nile Virus, was diagnosed last month in a 28-year-old mare from Middleburg in eastern Loudoun County's vaunted horse country. The mare -- which had been riddled with health problems, including kidney disease -- was euthanized Aug. 6. Brain tissue samples sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, were examined, and three weeks later the lab confirmed the encephalitis diagnosis.
"Frankly, no one expected for the test to come back positive. This is a very unusual case, and a lot of us have been saying to ourselves, 'Gee, what does this mean?' " said Elaine Lidholm, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. "We don't know if it's an isolated case or there's more out there in the environment."

Every day it's a battle. The nearly 15 million unemployed Americans won't enjoy Labor Day as a relaxing respite from work. Instead, they'll once again need to prepare to get up, hit the pavement and keep hunting for a job.  As the jobless rate nears 10 percent, even those fortunate enough to be employed fret about keeping their jobs. But for those without them, it's a daily struggle with emotional and economic distress.  "It's hard to maintain your focus that you're a valuable member of society when you go three months and nobody really wants to employ you," says David O'Bryan, 59, of Barre, Vt.  To cope with the stress, O'Bryan jots down his thoughts in a journal he carries around. He's seeking a new career in the education field. In one recent entry, he wrote:  "I'm finding the process of trying to get into schools both tedious and frustrating. I wish I could have some concrete feedback on why I'm not being hired. Overweight? No para-educator certificate in effect? No confidence in my ability to perform the job?"  The economy is showing signs of being on the mend. Yet that's hardly reassuring to the unemployed this Labor Day weekend. The job market is in lousy shape and will stay that way for a while.

Montgomery County police arrived at the Germantown crime scene near the intersection of Wisteria Drive and Misty Meadow Terrace to find a mess of green and yellow spray paint. Underneath it all, one of the department's 60-some speed cameras was temporarily blinded.  Taunting the authorities was a painted smiley face staring out from the padlocked steel box that protects the camera's computer equipment.  The strong feelings elicited by the cameras, which have taken the form of vandalism in more than two dozen cases in Montgomery County, are something other jurisdictions will likely face in coming weeks as they decide whether to place cameras on their own roadsides.

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