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28 May 21:55

Missing SATs never made delivery truck

by Andrew Mollenbeck

WASHINGTON – Hundreds of missing SATs never got close to arriving at the College Board, according to UPS records.

Earlier this month, about 300 high school students took the exam at Broad Run High School in Ashburn. 

But test takers didn’t learn until this week that the completed exams were lost and that they’d have an option to retake the SAT next month.

The mystery surrounds where in the chain of command the tests went off the grid and if they’re still recoverable.

In a response to WTOP, UPS made clear the shipment never entered its system.

“UPS has no record of picking up this package or processing it,” the statement reads.

“The absence of any information related to this tracking number also indicates that the package never entered the UPS network,” it says.

The school district had no comment regarding the UPS information.

Officials maintain the box of SATs was documented with photographs and readied for shipment.

It remains unclear what went wrong from there.

The College Board confirms it never received the shipment.

According to Loudoun County Public Schools, Principal Dave Spage is still actively trying to track down the missing tests.

It’s unclear if the College Board would still accept the results, nearly a month after the original test was administered.

The post Missing SATs never made delivery truck appeared first on WTOP.

27 May 08:36

9 new cheetah cubs born at Metro Richmond Zoo

by wtopstaff

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Metro Richmond Zoo says nine cheetah cubs from two litters were born in the past month.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch ( reports the zoo announced Tuesday the new cubs have brought the total number of cheetahs at the zoo in Chesterfield County to 25.

A female cheetah named Lana gave birth to two males and four females April 29. A zoo spokesman says the large litter is rare.

Khari, a first-time mother, gave birth to two males and two females May 12 but one cub died.

The zoo has not named the cubs yet. The new families are being kept in an enclosure far from public view, but are visible on the zoo’s Cheetah Cam.

Only forty cheetah cubs were born in captivity in the U.S. last year.


Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch,

The post 9 new cheetah cubs born at Metro Richmond Zoo appeared first on WTOP.

27 May 07:07

William Shatner treks to DC for wrath of Awesome Con

by Jason Fraley
William Shatner previews Awesome Con on WTOP

Jason Fraley | May 26, 2015 12:11 pm

WASHINGTON — It may not be the final frontier, but it’s a must-hit event for pop culture fanatics.

The third annual Awesome Con convention returns to the Washington Convention Center from May 29-31 with a chance to meet none other than Captain Kirk.

“It should be awesome,” William Shatner tells WTOP. “Maybe the purest form of enjoyment I get in going to (these events) is the time I spend on stage with the audience. We connect, and they tell me what they want to hear, and I tell them what I want them to hear, and we have a time together.”

Shatner leads a celebrity guest lineup that includes Sean Astin (“Lord of the Rings”), Ralph Macchio (“Karate Kid”), Judith Hoag (“Ninja Turtles”), David Yoast (“Power Rangers”), Brian O’Halloran (“Clerks”), Dana Snyder (“Squidbillies”), Emma Caulfield (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), Kristin Bauer (“True Blood”), WWE Champion Seth Rollins and Shatner’s co-star George Takei (“Star Trek”).

While Shatner and Takei are sure to please the Trekkies, this will be the first Awesome Con since the death of “Star Trek” icon Leonard Nimoy (a.k.a. Spock) back on Feb. 27.

“It’s something to lose a guy you’ve known 50 years, shared so much time, but not just time, pressured time, time that was filled with dire consequences of a bad script or an ugly director or something that went wrong,” Shatner says. “And of course all the good things, the successes and all the laughs that Leonard and I shared on stage and at dinners at home. It’s a real hunk out of  your life.”

Still, Shatner admits he’s lucky to have he and Nimoy frozen in time together on screen.

“I was someplace this past weekend, getting up and getting ready, and somehow I was on a station where they were playing one of the ‘Star Trek’ movies that J.J. Abrams directed, and on the screen appeared Leonard, latter-day Leonard,” Shatner says. “I had a line for him in which I said, ‘You know you’re old when you go back in time and you’re still old.’ And it came to mind that I got a big laugh for him on that line as I was watching him frozen in time that morning. … It was like a ghostly presence.”

Shatner says he’s pleased with the recent “Star Trek” reboots (2009-2013), starring Chris Pine in the role that he made famous decades ago.

“Chris Pine’s wonderful,” Shatner says. “J.J., I think, has got a hold of the secret of making ‘Star Trek’ a popular success. … He directs so well these action sequences and you go along with the ride … and it’s borne out by the fact that his box office far succeeds any of the movies that I was in.”

That may be true in sheer dollars, as Abrams’ “Star Trek” (2009) grossed $257.7 million compared to $82.3 million earned by the original “Star Trek” (1979). But if you adjust for inflation, the original “Star Trek” would have grossed $268 million in today’s dollars, making both rather comparable.

“Inflation, both currency and ego I hope,” Shatner jokes.

Either way, next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Gene Roddenberry’s 1966 TV series.

“It’s unimaginable, a blink of an eye,” Shatner says. “I looked around and I was Captain Kirk, and the next time I looked, I wasn’t.”

Prior to the 1966 TV series, Shatner had already accomplished a lot in showbiz.

After years of performing Shakespeare in his native Canada, Shatner moved to the U.S. and was soon starring on Broadway in plays like “A Shot in the Dark,” across Julie Harris and Walter Mathau, as well as major movies like “Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961), working with massive stars like Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Marlene Dietrich, Richard Widmark, Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift.

On television, he appeared on “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and the famous “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” episode of “The Twilight Zone.” Then came the phone call that changed his life.

“I remember getting a phone call saying, ‘come on and take a look at this pilot we’ve made called ‘Star Trek’ that NBC didn’t buy, but they said re-cast it. We’d like you to do the role of the captain,'” he says. “I went to see the pilot, and it was really good. I was enthralled and said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do this.'”

Now, Shatner is trying to devise a 50th anniversary tribute show, but the details remain a secret.

“I’ve got lots of talks on that,” he says. “When I’m ready, I’ll call ya and let you know.”

Until then, he’ll keep fueling pop culture, from Emmy-winning TV roles like “Boston Legal” to laughing gas guest appearances on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” to cameos in Brad Paisley music videos.

“I just sort of blunder around and I don’t have a plan,” Shatner jokes. “I keep hearing about people who have plans … I have no idea what they’re talking about. … If you think you have control of your life, you’re sadly mistaken, and that truth doesn’t seem to occur to many people until too late.”

Shatner appears at Awesome Con on Friday and Saturday. Click here for ticket information.

William Shatner's full interview with WTOP's Jason Fraley

Jason Fraley | May 26, 2015 10:15 am

The post William Shatner treks to DC for wrath of Awesome Con appeared first on WTOP.

27 May 01:17

Man attacked, robbed of $1 (Video)

by wtopstaff

WASHINGTON — Police in Washington are asking for the public’s help after they say surveillance video captured a brutal attack on a 63-year-old man who was robbed of $1.

Surveillance video captured the incident, which happened around 5:45 p.m. on May 15, 2015 along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, Southeast, near St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. The video shows a person wearing a red T-shirt and jeans punching another man, knocking him to the ground, before apparently robbing him.

The victim immediately falls to the ground and remains motionless for the rest of the video.

According to the police report, the victim suffered a severe laceration and was robbed of $1.

After the attack, a number of people looked and walked past the victim and did not help him.

Police hope someone recognizes the suspect in the video and calls authorities.

Anyone with information about the incident should call police at 202-727-9099. Information can also be text messaged to 50411.

Watch the surveillance video below:

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The post Man attacked, robbed of $1 (Video) appeared first on WTOP.

26 May 17:54

5 animal cams going dark at National Zoo

by wtopstaff

WASHINGTON — Some of the National Zoo’s animal cams are going away.

On June 1, the Asian small-clawed otter, clouded leopard, orangutan, fishing cat and naked mole rat cams will go dark. 

The change comes due to the zoo no longer being able to operate the software on the older live cameras.

The good news: The panda, lion and elephant cams won’t be affected.

In a news release, the zoo says it hopes expanded funding and new technology will bring new viewing opportunities in the future.

The post 5 animal cams going dark at National Zoo appeared first on WTOP.

26 May 13:49

Pet of the Week: Amy

by Rachel Nania

WASHINGTON — Meet Amy, a sweet Southern gal with lots of charm.

Amy came to the Washington Animal Rescue League from a full partner shelter in Georgia, in the hopes that she might find a forever family in the D.C. area — and it shouldn’t take long.

This medium-size dog — she looks like an elkhound/collie mix — is cheerful, affectionate and social. She gets along with everyone she meets, including small children.

She loves attention and will show her pleasure by leaning in close and giving some delicate doggy kisses. At 7 years young, Amy qualifies for our Boomers’ Buddies program, which means her adoption fee will be waived for adopters 50 years or older.

Don’t miss the opportunity of welcoming this wonderful dog into your heart and home!

About WARL: Founded in 1914, the Washington Animal Rescue League is the oldest animal shelter in Washington D.C. Its mission includes rescuing, rehabilitating and finding homes for animals who have no where else to go. The League also supports animals through affordable veterinary care, community outreach and education. Learn more about the Washington Animal Rescue League at

If you are thinking of adding a furry friend to your family, check out these other great shelters in the area:


Humane Society of Charles County
(301) 645-8181
71 Industrial Park Dr. PO Box 1015 Waldorf, Md. 20604

Humane Society of Charles County offers a low cost spay/neuter program to the public. Please call or visit our website for more information. The shelter is also looking for more foster parents to help its animals.

Prince George’s County Humane Society
(301) 262-5625
P.O. Box 925 Bowie, Md. 20718
Prince George’s County Humane Society is also looking for foster parents. For more information, contact the organization.

PAW — Partnership for Animal Welfare
(301) 572-4729
P.O. Box 1074 Greenbelt, Md. 20768

Paws Animal Kingdom
(301) 920-2318
P.O. Box 11531 Takoma Park, Md. 20912

Montgomery County Humane Society
(240) 773-5960
14645 Rothgeb Dr. Rockville, Md. 20850

The Animal Welfare League of Montgomery County
(301) 740-2511
12 Park Ave. Gaithersburg, Md. 20877


Washington Humane Society
(202) 576-6664
1201 New York Ave. NE 20002

ASAP — Alliance for Stray Animals and People
(202) 331-1330
P.O. Box 65438 Washington, D.C. 20035-5438

Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue
(202) 575-2210
Approved applicants may attend monthly adoption meets that are usually held at the house of a volunteer in either Northern Virginia or Southern Maryland.

Lucky Dog Animal Rescue
(202) 741-5428
Lucky Dog is a foster home organization and does not run a dedicated housing facility.

Northern Virginia

A Forever Home
(703) 961-8690
A Forever-Home is a nonprofit dog rescue group that operates in the Northern Virginia/Washington Metropolitan area.

Lab Rescue of L.R.C.P.
(301) 299-6756
Lab Rescue of the LRCP is a volunteer driven, nonprofit organization that rescues, fosters and places homeless, abused, and/or abandoned Labrador retrievers.

FOHA — Friends of Homeless Animals
(703) 385-0224
All visitors must speak to a Friends representative before receiving directions to their shelter location.

SPCA of Northern Virginia
P.O. Box 100220 Arlington, Va. 22210-3220
Animal Welfare League of Alexandria
(703) 746-4774
4101 Eisenhower Ave. Alexandria, Va. 22304

Animal Welfare League of Arlington
(703) 931-9241
2650 S. Arlington Mill Dr. Arlington, Va.

Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation
(703) 295-3647
P.O. Box 223953 Chantilly, Va. 20153

HART — Homeless Animal Rescue Team
(703) 691-HART
P.O. Box 7261 Fairfax Station, Va. 22039-7261

King Street Cats Rescue and Adoption
(703) 231-7199
25 Dove St. Alexandria, Va. 22314

The post Pet of the Week: Amy appeared first on WTOP.

28 May 20:36

Retired Manassas K9 Smoke dies at 14 - Inside NoVA

Inside NoVA

Retired Manassas K9 Smoke dies at 14
Inside NoVA
Retired Manassas city police Officer Bryant Arrington said his K9 partner Smoke was the kind of dog that only comes along once. “He was an absolute gift,” Bryant said. “He made me look good. I just had to drive the car.” Smoke, who retired with ...

28 May 20:18

Manassas police dogs sport new vests - Washington Post

Manassas police dogs sport new vests
Washington Post
The Manassas city police department's newest equipment is going to the dogs. And it's a good thing, too. The city now has protective vests for its four K9s. The gear, donated by a nonprofit called Vested Interest in K9s, is meant to protect police dogs ...

and more »
26 May 07:13

Virginia teen runs off and joins the circus

by Samantha Loss
WTOP's Sam Loss highlights Circus Smirkus: Part 1

Samantha Loss | May 22, 2015 4:30 pm

WASHINGTON — This summer, some kids will head off to summer camp. Others will spend time at the beach or the pool. But one teen from Alexandria, Virginia is off for the adventure of a lifetime.

Fifteen-year-old Sam Landa is running away to join the circus.

Sam will be performing in Circus Smirkus, a traveling circus where kids are the stars.

He was selected from a pool of more than 200 applicants to be part of the all-star cast that will perform nearly 70 shows in seven weeks in 15 different cities across New England.

Each show will be performed inside a 750-seat tent.

“When I was little, I always said to my mom that I really wanted to fly,” Sam tells WTOP.

So he jumped at the chance to try the flying trapeze when he was on a family vacation at Club Med.

From there, he started taking some classes at Trapeze School New York here in Washington, D.C. and his love for circus quickly became more than just a hobby.

Sam is still not sure exactly what act he will be in for this year’s Circus Smirkus show, but his areas of expertise include rope, aerial fabric and trapeze, so chances are that he will be spending some time hanging upside-down.

Circus Smirkus was founded in 1987, making this summer its 28th annual Big Top Tour.

All of the performers are between the ages of 10 and 18, and go through a rigorous audition process.  The talented kids get help from adult trainers, coaches, musicians and other staff to help pull the production together.

Parents are not invited on tour with the kids, but Sam’s mom, Debbie Landa, says that’s not going to stop her.

“We plan to be groupies,” Debbie says.  “We will be at opening day, closing day, and probably three or four cities in between.”

Circus Smirkus shows get underway in late June and continue through mid-August.

As for the future, Landa says he’s not sure if he’ll run away and join the circus for good, at least not just yet.

“Right now I would say it is more than a hobby, but I don’t have any definite plans just yet,” Sam says.  “I don’t want to box myself in to anything, but right now it’s definitely more than a hobby.”

Sam spent the better part of three years training almost every day for this opportunity.

“I’m just so proud of him,” says mom, Debbie.  “He works really hard, all the time, and it’s just so exciting to see his dreams come true.”

Follow Sam on tour this summer @sam_landa77 on Twitter and Instagram

Click here for ticket information.

WTOP's Sam Loss highlights Circus Smirkus: Part 2

Samantha Loss | May 22, 2015 4:31 pm

The post Virginia teen runs off and joins the circus appeared first on WTOP.

25 May 19:58

Ladybugs released in school as senior prank

by wtopstaff

CHAPTICO, Md. (AP) — A senior prank in which 72,000 ladybugs were released in a public high school has several youths and adults facing criminal charges.

The St. Mary’s County’s Sheriff’s Office said in a news release that early on May 20, five men forced open a door at Chopticon High School in Morganza, Maryland.

Deputies say the suspects, who were wearing masks and hoodies, released about 72,000 ladybugs throughout the school. Police say two others waited in a car.

Investigators say four male juveniles and three men were identified as suspects. One suspect ordered the ladybugs from the internet, deputies say.

The four youths have been charged with burglary, property destruction and disruption of school activities. They were released to their parents. Deputies say the three adults will be charged by criminal summons.

The post Ladybugs released in school as senior prank appeared first on WTOP.

28 May 03:21

Manassas Olive Oil Company opens for business -

Manassas Olive Oil Company opens for business
Manassas Olive Oil Company, located at 9406 Grant Avenue in Manassas, has opened its doors for business. The store is an independent, family owned 'tasting gallery' with over 45 flavors of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. We carry freshly pressed, ...

27 May 21:20

The Pentagon accidentally shipped live anthrax to as many as 9 government labs - Vox


The Pentagon accidentally shipped live anthrax to as many as 9 government labs
The Pentagon accidentally shipped live anthrax to as many as nine labs across the United States, the Defense Department confirmed to multiple news outlets Wednesday. Defense says there is "no known risk to the general public" from the mistaken ...
Pentagon inadvertently shipped live anthrax to labs in nine statesWJLA
Pentagon: Military mistakenly shipped live anthrax samplesWTOP
Military accidentally ships live anthrax to labs in nine statesThe Hill

all 381 news articles »
27 May 20:28

ThinkGeek’s Parent Company Says A New Suitor Has Followed Hot Topic Into The Bidding Ring

by Mary Beth Quirk

thinkgeekWhat’s a little retail merger romance without a love triangle thrown in for good measure? After the news yesterday Hot Topic was buying online retailer ThinkGeek’s parent company GeekNet in a deal worth $122 million, the purveyor of sci-fi curiosities and comic book inspirations says another suitor has thrown in a bid to buy it.

On Wednesday, Geeknet confirmed that it’d received an unsolicited offer from a strategic buyer that remains nameless, to buy all oustanding common stock for $20 per share in cash. That’s in comparison to the $17.50 per share offer Hot Topic threw down on Tuesday.

It’s now up to Geeknet’s board of directors to consult legal teams and financial advisors to mull over this latest proposal.

Until then, Hot Topic is still the No. 1 horse in Geeknet’s stable, so to speak, as Geeknet’s announcement notes that its ” board of directors has not changed its recommendation in support” of the deal with Hot Topic, and won’t have anything to say about this new bidder until the review is over with.

27 May 19:58

30 People Kicked Out Of Hotel After Scuffle Over Waffle Iron

by Laura Northrup

Few people are very amiable before breakfast, but things got really out of hand this week at a hotel in Michigan. A brawl of Chuck E. Cheese proportions broke out during breakfast at a hotel in Pere Marquette Township, Michigan. Two women began an argument over whose turn it was to make a waffle at the hotel’s breakfast bar.

How do 30 people fight over one waffle? Hotel employees called the local sheriff’s department and walked in to find what they called “a large group of people arguing over the waffle maker.” Police recounted that the dispute apparently began when one woman asked another whether she was using the waffle iron at that moment. When she didn’t respond, the first woman went ahead and made a waffle, and the two argued over whose waffle was cooking at that moment. Additional people joined in what was more of a shouting match and less of a physical dispute.

All of the people involved were asked to pack up their rooms and leave the hotel, and police stayed until all people involved in the breakfast brawl had left.

Waffle-maker dispute results in 30 people kicked out of Mason County hotel, police say [MLive]

27 May 17:59

A Legitimate Car Seller Will Not Ask For Payment In Amazon Gift Cards

by Laura Northrup

As gift cards go, Amazon gift cards are pretty flexible: they’re available in any amount and can be used for a wide variety of merchandise. You can even use them to buy imaginary cars. At least, that’s what happened to a Michigan man who thought that he was buying a car that was in Montana, but was in fact sending four thousand bucks into a scamtastic void.

Experienced consumer lawyer wrote about the case on Jalopnik’s blog about car-buying, aiming to save the people of the Internet from similar automotive heartbreak. “I have some very specific advice on how to make sure the story above never happens to you,” he advised the site’s readers. “DON’T DO ANY OF THIS.”

Let’s break down the details of what happened, according to the Detroit Free Press:

1. The buyer saw a car advertised on Craigslist that was purportedly in Montana. He corresponded with the seller and agreed to buy the vehicle for $2,500 plus $1,500 in shipping and insurance costs. While you can safely buy a used vehicle without seeing it in person first, you should know what you’re doing first, and very carefully vet the seller. Talking to them on the phone and seeing that their “dealership” has a web site do not count.

2. He visited several local stores, purchasing enough Amazon gift cards to cover the transaction. We’re not sure how well the DMV would react to a stack of empty Amazon gift cards as the sales documentation, but it probably wouldn’t go over well.

3. He transferred the gift card numbers to the seller using a URL that the seller sent, a site that purported to be Amazon. It’s not clear exactly what this site was, but this step was helpful from the scammer’s point of view, since it meant that the seller could drain the physical gift cards in a way that meant the buyer couldn’t reverse the transaction when he realized that it was a scam. Had he bought a gift card directly from Amazon and sent it by e-mail, that wouldn’t be the case.

4. The seller took down the ad and decided not to go through with the sale. That’s when the buyer realized that he wasn’t getting his money back, and went to police…who were unable to help him due to the unorthodox method of payment.

We agree with Steve Lehto’s advice: unless you’re an experienced buyer of used automobiles, do not do any of these things.

How To Avoid Craigslist’s Rampant ‘Sight Unseen’ Purchase Scams [Jalopnik]
Livonia resident out $4,000 from Craigslist scam [Detroit Free Press]

27 May 15:59

Walmart Leak Reveals Name, Details Of Upcoming Amazon Prime Competitor

by Chris Morran

shippingpass-logoEarlier this month it was revealed that Walmart, whose online business has been hugely overshadowed by its bricks-and-mortar operations, was finally going to take a real stab at Amazon with the introduction of an annual subscription service that offered free shipping and other benefits, but at a lower yearly cost than Amazon Prime. Yesterday, the retailer goofed and tipped its hand to reveal some details on the upcoming service.

TechCrunch reports that the actual site for the service, which appears to be named “ShippingPass,” went live briefly on Tuesday. It was supposed to only be available for early testers and has since been taken down.

Adding confusion at the time was the fact that the leaked site listed the annual subscription rate at only $1, which would be… $98 less than the price of Amazon Prime. Alas, this is not the actual rate. Rather, it will be $50/year when ShippingPass launches later this year.

The handful of shoppers who were able to register at the $1 rate later received an apology e-mail from Walmart, a refund of their dollar, and the promise of a $50 gift card.

In addition to the name and the yearly rate, the leak revealed some other details about ShippingPass:

• No minimum order — currently requires a minimum of $50 for free shipping. ShippingPass will launch with a “no minimum” requirement.

• Auto-renewed subscriptions — The current default for ShippingPass is to automatically renew subscribers every year. This can be turned off within your account settings, but it’s good to know going in that you’ll have to turn this option off if you don’t want the subscription to keep renewing.

• The early bird gets their package in three days — In order to get the three-day delivery guarantee from ShippingPass, customers will need to place orders by noon local time.

• Limited geographic availability at launch — The site didn’t say which parts of the country would or wouldn’t get the new service when it launched (aside from exclusions for Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, other U.S. territories, and customers with P.O. boxes), but it did indicate there would be limited availability during the pilot phase.

27 May 15:47

NYC Hotel Bar: Dress Code Should Not Have Been Enforced Against Navy Officer In Uniform

by Mary Beth Quirk

Beyond the velvet rope? (lolololori)

Beyond the velvet rope? (lolololori)

It’s understandable that some establishments use a dress code to maintain a certain atmosphere, but one New York City hotel is now apologizing after an employee enforced a strict set of clothing rules for the hotel’s popular rooftop bar, reportedly refusing to allow a Navy officer in because she was in uniform.

According to a member of the group, three of them were in cocktail attire while the sailor was in her white uniform during a Fleet Week visit to the Manhattan hotspot on Saturday, reports the New York Daily News.

That’s when a bouncer blocked them at the elevator to get to the hotel’s rooftop bar and lounge, the husband of the sailor’s cousin told the paper.

“We walked in, went to the elevator and were stopped by a doorman who said, ‘Hey man, there’s a dress code,’ ” he recalled. “I said, ‘Wait, are you rejecting us because someone is in a service uniform?’ He kind of rolled his eyes and wouldn’t budge.”

He says he asked someone at the front desk for help and was told the decision was up to the “lounge’s discretion.”

“We were all shocked and upset,” he said, noting that it was Memorial Day Weekend.

Though the sailor wants to remain anonymous, her family emailed the hotel’s management about the situation. A general manager responded by Sunday and asked the sailor to come back.

“We most certainly do appreciate and take a lot of pride [in] all the young people giving their lives to defend our nation,” the manager wrote in an email to the family, noting that “as per regular protocol, our team” at bar “is instructed to enforce a dress code — which obviously should not apply to military uniforms.”

“Once again, our sincere apologies for the miscommunication at our end, the issue has been brought to all of our team’s attention and it will certainly not repeat itself,” she added.

One of the members of the group says the apology is a good effort, but now it’s up to the hotel to follow through and “really examine its policies.”

“The fact that her uniform wasn’t labeled Versace shouldn’t have prevented her from going in,” he said. “They need to have a greater sense of the bigger picture.”

Hotel apologizes after Navy officer turned away from lounge during Fleet Week [New York Daily News]

27 May 12:30

Big Data Predicts Pollen Levels, Keeps Allergy Medicines In Stock

by Laura Northrup

The enemy: pollen. (Karen Chappell)

The enemy: pollen. (Karen Chappell)

Here in the Northeast, people who are allergic to pollen are having a harsh spring. They should take comfort, though, that there isn’t a corresponding shortage of allergy medicines, as there apparently was five years ago. Drug companies have learned how to take global climate data and turn it into more plentiful antihistamines when people need them.

Bayer, for example, is the maker of Claritin, a pretty standard and popular new-generation antihistimine. According to the Wall Street Journal, Bayer plans its entire supply chain for Claritin as early as nine months in advance, and uses software that models climate patterns to predict levels of popular allergens, then make sure that those areas stay supplied. Real-time and past years’ sales data are important, too, but weather is an important variable in how demand for a certain medication can change.

This spring, pollen levels are apparently up 25% on the coasts of the United States, which explains why people allergic to pollen are so unhappy, and why my car looks green. Experts say that this is because plants are spewing pollen, but there has been less rainfall than usual, which means that the pollen continues to float around, hitting humans in the face and causing allergic reactions.

Using weather models has other applications outside of allergy drugs, but those are trickier since other health conditions don’t map as precisely as pollen levels do to allergic reactions. You can try to predict demand for cough medicine along with spans of cold temperatures, for example, but that’s imprecise. If you can predict pollen levels, though, you can probably predict demand for allergy medicines.

Big Data Brings Relief to Allergy Medicine Supply Chains [Wall Street Journal]

26 May 22:23

FTC Affirms Consumers’ Right To Go To Court Over Warranty Disputes

by Chris Morran

In just the last four years, the U.S. Supreme Court has twice ruled against consumers’ rights and in favor of companies that use fine print in their contracts to block wronged customers from suing in court and from joining together as a class action. In spite of these rulings, the Federal Trade Commission recently upheld rules that give warranty buyers the right to a day in court, even if they have to go through arbitration first.

Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975, the FTC is responsible for interpreting and reviewing the rules guiding warranties.

While these rules don’t bar warranty providers from requiring that customers enter into arbitration for dispute settlements, § 703.5(j) states that an arbitrator’s decisions “shall not be legally binding on any person.”

This is very different from the increasingly popular mandatory binding arbitration that so many companies — particularly financial institutions and telecom providers — have been inserting into their terms of service and contracts.

In those binding situations, not only is the customer forced into individual arbitration — a process that is heavily unbalanced in favor of the larger company — but the decision of the arbitrator is final.

§ 703.5(j) makes sure that warranty customers still have the right to take their matter before a court. The arbitrator’s decision can be introduced as evidence, but that’s it.

During the FTC’s recent review process of the warranty rules, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers called for the removal of § 703.5(j), saying “it creates disincentives for manufacturers or sellers” to offer arbitration in the first place.

While two federal appeals courts have ruled that the Magnuson-Moss act doesn’t prohibit binding arbitration, the FTC has repeatedly held that the 1975 law never intended for arbitration rulings to be the ultimate say in a dispute.

The Commission points to § 2310(a)(3)(C) of this law, which deals with informal dispute settlement procedures.

The law states that “any decision in such procedure may be admissible in evidence” in “any civil action arising out of a warranty obligation.” To the FTC, this clearly implies that the legislators saw arbitration as a first step that could resolve some disputes, but not the final, binding word on all disputes.

Some opponents of this rule also claim that arbitration doesn’t come under the umbrella of “informal dispute settlement mechanisms” [IDSM] and therefore Magnuson-Moss doesn’t apply to these procedures.

“[A]ny arbitration proceeding is, by comparison to judicial proceedings, an ‘informal’ ‘mechanism’ for ‘dispute settlement,'” counters the FTC, “and it thus falls squarely within the plain meaning of the term ‘informal dispute settlement mechanism.'”

In addition to retaining the prohibition on binding arbitration, the FTC is adding to § 700.10, which that limits warrantors’ tying of warrantees to select parts or service providers.

In its current form, that rule prohibits a company from voiding a warranty just because a customer uses someone other than an authorized dealer or authorized replacement parts for non-warranty work. In other words, if your laptop screen dies while under warranty, the manufacturer shouldn’t be able to say the warranty was voided just because you replaced the sound card.

The revised rule clarifies that this extends to the mere implication of voiding the warranty for customers who choose to use parts and services unrelated to the manufacturer.

“[W]arranty language that implies to a consumer acting reasonably in the circumstances that warranty coverage requires the consumer’s purchase of an article or service identified by brand, trade or corporate name is similarly deceptive,” reads the revised rule. “For example, a provision in the warranty such as, ‘use only an authorized ‘ABC’ dealer’ or ‘use only ‘ABC’ replacement parts,’ is prohibited where the service or parts are not provided free of charge pursuant to the warranty.”

A real life example of this case occurred recently, with BMW reaching a settlement deal with the FTC for telling drivers of the company’s Mini vehicles that the only way to maintain a vehicle’s safe operation and value is to “have routine maintenance performed only by Mini dealers unless the representation is true and BMW can substantiate it with reliable scientific evidence.”

26 May 21:07

IRS: Thieves Obtained Information On 100,000 Taxpayers From Transcript System

by Laura Northrup

A tax transcript is a document from the IRS that shows key information from tax returns that you’ve already filed, or changes to what you and the government owe each other that may have been made after the return was filed. You can normally order them online, but the system is now closed after the IRS learned that people identified only as “thieves” accessed transcripts for about 100,000 people.

If you’re one of the unlucky 100,000, the IRS says that they will contact you so you can take precautions. To access a person’s transcript, someone would need some key personal information about them that isn’t all that hard to find, like their Social Security number, tax filing status, address, and birthdate. While a stolen tax return can be very valuable to an identity thief, the culprits would have already used the most important pieces of personal data to obtain the transcripts in the first place.

The main filing system was not breached, the IRS assures the public: only the system that generates transcripts. The same group of thieves made an estimated 200,000 attempts from what the agency called “questionable email domains” to request transcripts with ill-gotten personal information.

APNewsBreak: IRS says thieves stole tax info from 100,000 [Associated Press]

26 May 19:35

Mystery Drone Operator Drops Cash On Lunchtime Crowd In Michigan City

by Mary Beth Quirk

For all those times you’ve wished it would suddenly start raining money, the odds are you haven’t been that lucky… yet. The lunchtime crowd enjoying the great outdoors in Grand Rapids, MI enjoyed a fleeting brush with unexpected fortune when a mysterious drone flew over head, dropping cash as it flew.

According to, who had an employee on the premises when the drone flew over downtown around 12:30 p.m. today, people were scurrying around with joy. As one does when MONEY IS FALLING OUT OF THE SKY.

“It was hovering over the center of the circle and after a couple of minutes it dropped what appeared to be money,” the employee recalled. “Once people realized the cash was real, they swarmed to pick it up.”

It appears that all the money was single dollar bills, with about $50 getting dropped before the drone went on its merry way.

The MLive worker at the scene said it appeared the operators were standing on top of the JW Marriott hotel nearby, but officials at the hotel said they had no knowledge of a planned promotion or other occasion for a drone flight.

Mystery drone drops cash on downtown lunch crowd []

26 May 17:48

Target Math Means You Pay Extra For Cardboard Box, Less Choice

by Laura Northrup

Bulk buying is good. When you buy multiple food pouches that come in a single box, for example, it makes life easier for cashiers and maybe for you when you unload your groceries. That’s what Jared thought when he went to buy some baby food pouches at Target.

The photo shows a single food pouch priced at $1.39, and then a four-pack of the same size costs $5.99. That's a 44¢ surcharge.

The photo shows a single food pouch priced at $1.39, and then a four-pack of the same size costs $5.99. That’s a 44¢ surcharge.

Then he noticed that, thanks to Target math, it costs more to buy a four-pack of just one flavor than to buy four individual packets, which can be different flavors. That’s just how things work once you’ve entered the magical land of Target.

Why is the pricing like this? Often this kind of confusing math involves temporary sale prices or deals involving gift cards with purchase. Maybe Target wants to move more single pouches in general. Maybe there is a big coupon for the four-pack in the Cartwheel app this week. Whatever Target’s actual logic might be, this doesn’t make obvious sense to consumers, and certainly doesn’t encourage them to buy more baby food pouches.

A few years ago, a Target employee tried to explain some of the retailer’s Reality Vortex policies to us, and that clarified some situations, but not ones like this.

26 May 15:59

Makers Of Similac Advance Baby Formula Releasing GMO-Free Version

by Mary Beth Quirk

As many consumers move along with the trend toward products made without additives, preservatives, or genetically modified organisms, the maker of Similac Advance says it’ll be selling a GMO-free version of the product by the end of the month.

Abbott says it’ll first offer the non-GMO in Similac Advance, followed after by a GMO-less version of Similac Sensitive. If those go well, more GMO-free formulas could follow, reports the New York Times. The company already makes a GMO-free formula, as its Similac Organic does not contain any genetically altered ingredients.

Though consumer demand for products without GMOs has been on the rise, advocates say there is nothing harmful in genetically altered ingredients.

But what the people want, the people get.

“We listen to moms and dads, and they’ve told us they want a non-G.M.O. option,” Chris Calamari, general manager of Abbott’s pediatric nutrition business told the NYT. “We want to make sure we meet the desires of parents.”

This will be the first mainstream formula offered without GMOs. Most versions on the market contain corn and soy derivatives, more than 90% of which are grown from genetically altered seeds, reports the NYT.

Though consumers have launched campaigns to urge baby formula makers to sell products without GMOs in the past, the company says the new product has nothing to do with that push. Instead, the company made that decision for itself by doing research.

“Over one-third of consumers say it would have appeal to them and give them peace of mind,” Calamari told the NYT.

Abbott joins a growing list of companies who’ve made shifts toward GMO-free products or those made without artificial flavors and preservatives, including Chipotle, Panera Bread and just today, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

Similac Advance Infant Formula to Be Offered G.M.O.-Free [New York Times]

26 May 15:00

How Carl’s Jr. & Hardee’s Became One Giant Burger Chain With Two Names

by Ashlee Kieler

Does a fast food chain by any other name smell as… burger-like? Even though Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s now share (almost) the same menu, the same graphic design elements in their branding, and the same parent company, they still retain their original names and there is virtually no geographic overlap of the two brands. While the only significant difference between Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s might be their names, for more than 30 years the two companies were worlds apart.

Before CKE Restaurants Inc. brought the companies together in the late ’90s, Carl Karcher and Wilber Hardee dreamed and cultivated their respectives fast food dynasties in different eras for varying reasons and on separate coasts.

Carl’s Jr.: From A Hot Dog Cart To Dotting The West Coast

Starting on the Pacific coast in 1941 – nearly 20 years before future brother-company Hardee’s – Carl and Margaret Karcher borrowed $311 against their car. Together with the $15 they had in savings, the couple spent $325 to enter the fast food business with the purchase of a hot dog cart.

The first day of business, the couple’s sales totaled $14.75, CKE reports in its company history.

Soon after, business began to outpace the capacity of the single cart operating in Anaheim, CA, and the Karcher’s opened three additional carts.

Not quite five years after the cart first opened for business, in 1945, the first stand-alone restaurant – called Carl’s Drive-In Barbeque – opened in Anaheim.

According to the book Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, the Karcher’s split the work at the new restaurant, with Carl cooking, Margaret managing the cash register and carhops serving the meals.

Business soared at Carl’s Drive-In Barbeque following World War II, but a new hamburger joint was booming not far away. With the rise of McDonald’s, Karcher knew he needed to revamp his business plans to keep up with the competition.

By 1956, Karcher had opened the first two Carl’s Jr. restaurants, a smaller version of the company’s original drive-in. Starting in the 1960s, the new restaurants featured quick serve hamburgers, table service, music and the now iconic bright yellow five-pointed Happy Star.

The new Carl’s Jr. also featured a first, according to CKE: a drive-thru window.

In 1964, Carl incorporated into Carl Karcher Enterprises (CKE Restaurants) and continued to build his brand. But with other fast food brands in Southern California, like McDonald’s and Taco Bell, gaining popularity, Karcher began looking to new ventures.

According to Fast Food Nation, Karcher opened several Carl’s Whistle Stops, a railway-themed restaurant, featuring employees dressed as railroad workers, and electric trains shuttling orders to the kitchen. By 1966, the three restaurants were converted to Carl’s Jr. locations.

Another brand from Karcher failed to catch on, the Scot’s coffee shops, where servers wore plaid skirts.

While those ventures couldn’t find an audience, Carl’s Jr. restaurants continued popping up along the coast of California, and by 1976 Karcher Enterprises owned one of the largest fast food chains in the U.S., employing more than 5,000 employees.

The 1980s brought much change to the chain, with higher priced meals and expansions into new states, a move made possible by the company’s first franchisees.

Not long after, Carl’s Jr. began duel branding restaurants with quick-service Mexican food company Green Burrito. But the company’s biggest expansion wouldn’t come until the late ’90s.

Hardee’s: Charring The Competition On The East Coast

While Carl Karcher was in the midst of building his empire in California, Wilber Hardee’s dream of a fast food empire was just beginning in Greenville, NC, in 1960.

Hardee had already opened and operated a series of restaurants and inns, including the Do Drop Inn and Silo Restaurant, in the Greenville area, when he got the idea for a quick-serve burger joint after visiting the state’s first McDonald’s.

“What impressed me was, I set out in front there and saw they took in $168 in one hour,” Hardee told author Jerry Bledsoe. “That was big money then… on 15-cent hamburgers.”

Soon he was able to construct a smaller version of the McDonald’s restaurant that he called Hardee’s Drive-In. The new stores were identifiable by their hexagonal designs.

To further set himself apart from the competition, Hardee used char-grills to give his burgers more flavor, and soon the “charco-broiled” burgers became the hottest item was the restaurant’s quick service menu.

Months after the first location opened, two entrepreneurs, Leonard Rawls and Jim Gardner, approached Hardee about a partnership to create Hardee’s Drive-Ins, Inc., according to the North Carolina History Project.

While the new concept quickly caught on and the partners looked to expand from their first location, Wilber Hardee made the decision to leave the partnership, and sold his half of the company to Rawls and Gardner.

While there are varying stories about why Hardee stepped away from his growing fast food empire, he told Our State magazine that ““I was stupid. That’s what I was. You know how it is — you make mistakes.”

Hardee went on to try his hand at a few other food industry ventures, while the company that bore his name continued to gain popularity.

At the end of the ’60s, the company incorporated into Hardee’s Food Systems and successfully began franchising the restaurant. In all, the corporation operated nearly 200 restaurants in the Midwest and Southwestern U.S., as well as its first international locations in Germany.

The ’70s brought more change for the chain, with the introduction of “made from scratch” biscuits and the opening of the 1,000th restaurant.

In 1981, Imasco — a Canadian company that also owned tobacco brands, and drug stores — acquired Hardee’s. The next year — as we recently told you in our rundown of real-life brands featured on Mad Men — Imasco purchased the Burger Chef chain and converted many of them into Hardee’s locations.

But by the late ’90s the company was struggling to keep pace with competitors, setting itself up for its biggest change to date.

Similar But Not Quite The Same

Image courtesy of Morton Fox

With more than 2,500 locations in the Midwest, South and East Coast regions, Hardee’s was a prime target for purchase, and that’s what happened in 1997 when CKE Restaurants came knocking.

According to a WRLA-TV report from 1997, CKE Restaurants paid $327 million for Hardee’s — by then the fourth-largest fast food chain in the nation.

The combination, which made Hardee’s a subsidiary of CKE, was a mutually beneficial deal, giving Carl’s Jr. a better breakfast menu, while strengthening Hardee’s lunch and dinner fare.

In all, the merger crated a chain with 3,828 restaurants, of which 3,152 were Hardee’s and 676 were Carl’s Jr locations, mostly located in California.

Over the next several years, many Hardee’s restaurants were converted to Carl’s Jr., while some other locations were closed for an array of reasons including dwindling sales.

The evolution of the chains continued into the 2000s. Hardee’s added Thickburgers and all the stores adopted what is now known as Star Hardee’s, a take on Happy Star.

A map shows the locations of Hardee's (red) and Carl's Jr. (yellow) locations around the country.   wikipedia user Gage

A map shows the locations of Hardee’s (red) and Carl’s Jr. (yellow) locations around the country.
wikipedia user Gage

While the two fast food joints are clearly related in their branding, their menus continue to showcase their differences. For example, Hardee’s doesn’t serve salads, while Carl’s Jr. has the leafy greens on its menu.

But maybe the biggest difference between the chains is their location.

Carl’s Jr. continues to be located on the West Coast and Southwest states, serving more urban areas, while Hardee’s maintains residency in the Midwest, Southeast and now the Mid-Atlantic, focused on serving less densely populated areas in those regions.

According to the Tumblr maysbynik, the two brands generally keep a fair amount of distance between their locations. The closest they come is about 30 miles apart in the area around Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Today, CKE reports that the Carls Jr./Hardee’s brands employ more than 30,000 workers at 3,036 locations in 43 states an in 13 countries. Of those locations Hardee’s continues to have the upper hand with nearly 1,915 locations, while Carl’s Jr. operates 1,121 stores.

25 May 14:29

Vocabulary test takes away some National Spelling Bee drama

by wtopstaff

WASHINGTON (AP) — For viewers of last year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee, one of the most surprising results came courtesy of a test nobody saw.

Vanya Shivashankar was one of the stars of the show, heavily promoted in ESPN’s coverage. Her older sister, Kavya, won the bee in 2009, and the smiling, telegenic Vanya was participating for the fourth time, coming off a fifth-place finish in 2013.

Vanya breezed through the preliminary rounds and spelled both words correctly in the semifinals. But when the finalists were announced — factoring in scores from a computerized spelling and vocabulary test — Vanya was eliminated. ESPN’s cameras cut to her, but she didn’t show much emotion.

Two years after vocabulary became part of the bee for the first time, the integration of the test remains a work in progress. While participants and bee officials say it’s made the competition fairer — everyone is tested on the same words — it has taken some of the drama away from the semifinal rounds.

Vanya still loves the bee, but she misses the simplicity of the old format, when the semifinals would continue for as long as necessary for the field to be narrowed to about 10 finalists.

“Lots of people would like to see people going up and spelling words and seeing how they used to do it, just to spell until everyone drops,” Vanya said. “I’m fine with anything, but spelling till you drop is kind of cool.”

Vanya, who’s from Olathe, Kansas, wasn’t entirely surprised she didn’t make the finals last year. She knew her test score could have been better. Spellers were given their own scores, but neither they nor the audience knew how they stacked up.

That’ll change this year as bee officials continue to tweak the format. The test scores will be announced and spellers will be ranked heading into the semifinals.

Tim Weinkauf, the lead producer of ESPN’s coverage, said he’ll take advantage of that change by showing golf-style leaderboards and highlighting the spellers who can work their way into the finals if someone ahead of them falters.

“I think it allows for more dramatic moments because there will be those certain kids that are on the bubble,” Weinkauf said.

Preliminaries will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, with semifinals Thursday morning and finals Thursday night.

One important thing that hasn’t changed in the format: If you miss a word on stage, the bell rings and you’re out.

There were drawbacks to what Vanya calls the “spelling till you drop” approach. In 2010, the semifinals were stopped in the middle of a round because too many spellers got words wrong and there was a chance of having too few finalists to fill the 2-hour broadcast window.

The bee’s executive director, Paige Kimble, heard plenty of complaints that ending the semifinals that way was unfair.

“We’ve certainly had some white-knuckle moments,” Kimble said. “You just don’t know when you go into a round how the kids are going to do.”

The vocabulary test, Kimble said, plays a much more important role than making the semifinals more predictable.

“I think it’s making the most profound impact exactly where we wanted it to, and that is at the school and local spelling bee levels,” she said. “We’re finding that teachers and students and parents are embracing the acquisition of vocabulary along with the memorization of words for a spelling bee.”

Kimble also said she didn’t think the vocabulary test has ultimately had much influence over who advances to the finals.

The 285 participants in this year’s National Spelling Bee have already proven they’re better spellers than 11 million other kids — and to spell at that level, it’s essential to at least have some idea what the words mean. The best spellers can figure out words they’ve never heard before by understanding Greek and Latin roots and languages of origin.

In addition to 13-year-old Vanya, this year’s bee has two other siblings of past winners — 12-year-old Jairam Hathwar, whose brother, Sriram, was a co-champion last year; and 11-year-old Srinath Mahankali, whose brother, Arvind, was a popular winner in 2013.

Jairam and Srinath will get another shot if they fall short. Vanya is in 8th grade, which means this is her last chance. She insists she doesn’t feel any added pressure.

“I’ve been having the time of my life,” she said. “This is something that not many people get to do and I’ve been able to do it so many years, so definitely no regrets.”


Follow Ben Nuckols on Twitter at .

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25 May 12:13

D.C. makes list of worst cities for car drivers

by wtopstaff

WASHINGTON — Drivers sitting in Washington-area traffic at least have some bragging rights: The nation’s capital comes in at number two on NerdWallet’s “Worst Cities for Car Drivers” list.

D.C. just missed the top mark awarded to Boston and its miserable driving experiences of historic proportions.

NerdWallet analyzed the following factors based on a points system and an awarded overall score to determine the worst ratings:

  • How bad and long are the delays?
  • How congested is the city during peak commute times?
  • How’s the weather? (Poor weather conditions often lend to driving dangers and delays.)
  • How available is parking?
  • How much does car insurance cost annually?
  • How expensive is the gas?
  • Is there a higher chance for an accident compared with the national average?

Top 10 worst cities for car drivers and why

  1. Boston: Among all of the cities NerdWallet surveyed, drivers in Boston face the greatest likelihood of an accident.
  2. Washington, D.C.: Compared with other major cities, D.C. drivers waste the most time in delays: 67 hours each year.
  3. Los Angeles: Drivers endure an average of 61 hours of delays each year, and L.A. interstates, including the 110 and the 405, are notorious for bumper-to-bumper traffic.
  4. Miami: In addition to major traffic during peak hours, car owners pay an average of $1,750.10 for auto insurance annually, 59 percent more than the average U.S. driver.
  5. Chicago: Parking can be sparse in the Windy City, with only 0.77 parking lots or garages for every 1,000 commuter vehicles.
  6. San Francisco: Drivers waste a significant amount of time in traffic: 61 hours each year. The City by the Bay also touts a high rate of auto theft.
  7. Philadelphia:  This city saw 113 days of precipitation in 2012. Drivers are 61.2 percent more likely to get into an accident here than  in other U.S. cities.
  8. Seattle: Seattle’s frequent rainy weather creates a dangerous driving environment with slick roads and poor visibility.
  9. Detroit: Although the Motor City makes a lot of cars, there’s nowhere to park them. Detroit has the lowest parking availability on the list.
  10. New York City: The Big Apple is the nation’s most populated city and its streets bear the brunt. Car owners spend $1,614.71 annually on car insurance, $500 above the national average.



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25 May 03:34

Police: Pressure cooker from suspicious DC vehicle destroyed - U.S. News & World Report

Chicago Tribune

Police: Pressure cooker from suspicious DC vehicle destroyed
U.S. News & World Report
WASHINGTON (AP) — A bomb squad safely destroyed a pressure cooker found in a "suspicious" vehicle left unattended Sunday afternoon on the National Mall near the U.S. Capitol building and the vehicle's owner was located and arrested, a U.S. Capitol ...
Police: Pressure cooker in suspicious DC vehicle destroyedWNCT

all 210 news articles »
24 May 17:23

2 arrested after 100-mph car chase with toddler in backseat - Washington Times

2 arrested after 100-mph car chase with toddler in backseat
Washington Times
WEST LINN, Ore. (AP) - Authorities say two Washington men led an Oregon state trooper on a car chase that topped 100 mph - with a toddler unrestrained in the backseat. The chase began Saturday night when the Oregon State Police trooper stopped a ...

and more »
24 May 06:00

Fishing derby teaches kids about fishing

by wtopstaff

“If we educate the children and expose them to the environment starting from the third or fourth grade, we will have them for life.” – Senator Lisa Gladden, District 41, Baltimore

A fishing derby for underprivileged youth was held on May 9 at the ponds of Camp Airy in Thurmont. A total of 37 youth from the city of Frederick, 28 of which live in public housing caught 140 trout that had been stocked a few days prior to the event. Camp Airy has two beautiful spring-fed ponds that are used for several fishing events each spring and summer.

Fishing is a safe, rewarding and educational outdoor activity that can provide many memorable experiences for children and adults alike. Unfortunately, many children do not have an adult in their lives who can teach them the necessary skills like how to tie a hook onto a fishing line and cast a fishing rod. These children may never make a connection with their natural world and can sometimes turn to alternate activities for entertainment that are not always healthy.

The lack of involvement of ethnic minorities and the economically underprivileged in the environmental community is a problem for inner city families. Fortunately, there are adults and businesses in the Frederick community that are making the effort to bring environmental awareness to at risk youth through the annual fishing derby event held at Camp Airy.

Rick Gladhill has an important job as the Director of Physical Services for the Housing Authority of the City of Frederick and his involvement with the community he serves goes well beyond his job description. “I started this program 14 years ago because I think that fishing is something every kid should experience,” said Galdhill.

“The kids attending are our at risk youth whom reside in our public housing units in the City of Frederick. They typically do not get the opportunity to experience the outdoors, as many others are fortunate to do so. Our focus is to introduce them to the outdoors as a safe alternative to drugs,” said Galdhill.

Gladhill believes that kids who engage in outdoor activities such as fishing are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drug use that can destroy their lives. “I am insane about fishing,” said Gladhill, “fishing is so exciting that drugs cannot come close to the feeling I get when I catch a fish.”

The excitement of the catch was evident in the young people I talked to at the event. As I approached the young anglers, they were proud to show me their full stringers and tell me stories of the big fish they landed or the one that got away.

12-year old, Emmanuelle Hean and 9-year old, Trinity Ntemi told me that the best part about the derby was that they could take the fish home to eat. “My Aunt Laure will fry these fish up for dinner,” said Trinity. This was Trinity’s second time participating in the fishing derby.

The kids arrived in a bus from the public housing units early that morning. Gladhill greeted the children and provided a short orientation and demonstration. “I explained to them about how to fish, the rodeo rules, safety, etc. and that this event is about being “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs,” said Galdhill.

Following this short speech he spread the kids out around the lower pond and then the cast off began. Within minutes the young anglers started reeling in trout and squeals of excitement could be heard coming from across the pond as trout were netted or pulled onshore by the eager anglers. “After an hour or so, I moved only those kids from the lower pond to the upper one that has not yet caught a trout,” said Gladhill.

Lunch was delivered from Rocky’s Pizza in Thurmont at noon. Many of the kids continued to fish while eating the pizza, making the best use of valuable fishing time. At 1:00PM, the fishing time ended and Gladhill called all of the kids together for a final speech about the importance of being “Hooked on Fishing and Not on Drugs”.

After the speech, each angler’s catch was weighed and prizes were awarded according to weight and the length of the biggest fish in four age categories. Winners included: Jamin Naylor, age 7 and under; Deon Melvin, age 8-9; Alexandra Garcia, age 10-11; Shatia Campbell, age 12 and up. These winners were given a fishing rod and a tackle box full of tackle. Names of other participants were drawn and each received a fishing tackle prize.

The event was financially sponsored by BB&T Bank as part of the Lighthouse Project that strives to make a positive difference in the Frederick community. Other sponsors include Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Albert Powell State Fish Hatchery, Walmart, Camp Airy, Custom Imprints and the volunteers from the Housing Authority of the City of Frederick and BB&T Bank.

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24 May 06:00

Featured Pets

by wtopstaff

AVAILABLE FOR ADOPTION THIS WEEK are TORETTO, a 13-year-old male pit bull terrier mix, and SHADOW, a 1½-year-old male domestic medium hair cat.

Toretto is a familiar face on this page. Being older and a pit bull terrier mix is not helping his adoption plight. Toretto arrived as a stray, so his age is just an estimate and his behavior has been exemplary since he has been in our care. Read more about Toretto in this week’s Pets and People column; better yet, stop by and visit him in person.

Shadow is a handsome fellow. He is an independent cat and would enjoy a quiet home where he has time to adapt to his new surroundings. Shadow is a bit on the shy side but loves to have someone talk to him. He looks you right in the eye and responds well to a soft voice.

Meet Toretto and Shadow at the Frederick County Animal Control Center, 1832 Rosemont Ave., Frederick. To view all the adoptable animals at Frederick County Animal Control, visit For general questions, call 301-600-1546.

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