The Night Note: Beware of Woodchucks and Swine 4/27/2009

It starts with trimming a tree. Then maybe a gutter needs fixing, or a chimney repairing. And within weeks, more than $100,000 is gone. Police call them "woodchucks," men who cruise the older neighborhoods of Northern Virginia looking for elderly women living alone who can be conned or manipulated or intimidated into paying ridiculous sums for little or no work. In Fairfax County, police estimate that 500 people a year are victimized by unlicensed contractors who come back day after day, demanding $7,000 to fix a leaky sink or $3,000 to fill some shallow holes in the back yard. "I was so taken for a ride," said a Falls Church woman, 64, who did not want to be identified out of fear. She paid about $140,000 in slightly more than two months to a crew of men from Culpeper County, where many of the woodchucks live, for barely noticeable repairs. "I was very naive." Police in Northern Virginia said the scammers cruise through more established neighborhoods, ones with big trees, fewer children and maybe more slightly declining houses. They look for older sedans, such as Cadillacs or Crown Victorias, with handicapped license plates or hang tags. No SUVs or child seats. (WASHINGTONPOST)

DC LAWYER DEAD AND TWO CHILDREN ALIVE AFTER WATER RESCUE IN FLORIDA                                                                                A 70-year-old man lost his life Saturday after rescuing two boys who nearly drowned in the ocean off Pompano Beach, the Broward Sheriff's Office said. Charles Schulze was pronounced dead at Holy Cross Hospital, BSO spokeswoman Dani Moschella said. Schulze was walking on the beach with his girlfriend in the 1000 block of South Ocean Boulevard about 1 p.m. when he saw two boys, ages 9 and 12, who were struggling far out in the water after being caught in a rip current, Moschella said.
Schulze, a Washington D.C. attorney who owns a home in Pompano Beach, swam out to the boys and tried to help them to shore. But about 100 yards out he ran into trouble. (MIAMI HERALD)  

OH DEER! THE SECRET LIFE OF A DOE                                                                                                                                                      Humans invented suburbia, but it is deer who may be its most enthusiastic residents. Now, wildlife experts are wondering if the exploding number of deer in populated areas is creating a whole new kind of animal. The deer in question is a doe with whom Ferebee has a long-term relationship, of sorts. Six years ago, he shot her with a dart containing a chemical that temporarily immobilized her, then put a leather collar with an attached radio transmitter on her. Since then, he has checked in with her periodically, tracking her movements to learn more about the secret lives of deer living so close to humans. Though deer are becoming almost as ubiquitous in the suburbs as squirrels and rabbits, there is a great deal that biologists and wildlife managers don't know about how they dwell among us. Ferebee's effort is part of a wave of inquiry: How do deer understand human activity, navigate traffic, reproduce in populated areas? Are they becoming, in some fundamental way, a different animal than deer living in the wild?    (WASHINGTONPOST)

THE NIGHT LIFE FALLS PREY TO THE RECESSION...CHECKMATE!                                                                                                            Many businesses have fallen victim to the recession, and those that have continued to thrive have made sacrifices to do so. While plenty of people have made efforts to conserve during these hard times, the current financial situation has not discouraged people from going out. In light of the recession, some bars and clubs in the area have been more lenient than they were in the past. Conversely, the recession has been the knockout blow for struggling bars and clubs.  (DC EXAMINER)

MD OFFICIALS KEEP TABS ON SEX OFFENDERS                                                                                                                                     Maryland lawmakers are at odds over how to keep track of hundreds of juvenile sex offenders even though a 3-year-old federal law requires that they be registered in a national database. The statute, called the Adam Walsh Act after the slain son of "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh, establishes a national online registry for both juvenile and adult sex offenders and organizes them into three categories, according to the severity of their crime. Tier-one offenders must update their whereabouts every year for 15 years, while tier-two offenders must do so every six months for 25 years. Third-tier offenders are required to check in every three months for the rest of their lives.  (WASHINGTONTIMES)

MARYLAND PREPARES FOR SWINE FLU                                                                                                                                                    Maryland health officials are bracing for swine flu, although there had been no confirmed or suspected cases in the state as of Sunday night.The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is monitoring the outbreak closely, and officials don't believe there's much chance Maryland will be spared. There have been 20 confirmed cases of swine flu in five states so far, none of them fatal. But the virus is believed to have killed dozens in Mexico, and the United States has declared a public health emergency. Frances Phillips, Maryland's deputy secretary for public health, says the department will open up its command center Monday morning, allowing experts to respond quickly to any suspected cases. Health professionals around the state are being asked to monitor people with flulike symptoms and send in fluid samples for testing. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

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