Archive for September, 2009

Foundation Stays Suit on Chesapeake Cleanup

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation suspended its lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency filed in January over Chesapeake Bay cleanup, according to a CBF news release Wednesday.

The foundation said it will hold the suit while it monitors EPA action on bay cleanup mandated by President Obama’s Chesapeake Bay executive order, which required that plans be made and executed for bay restoration.

“Since then EPA has  begun to step up to the plate,” said CBF President William Baker in a written statement.

“As many actions that should be included in a final settlement may not be resolved until EPA  has completed the notice and comment process and issued the final strategy in May, a stay is appropriate,” Baker said. “If, during negotiations, we do not believe that EPA is making the necessary commitments, the stay order allows us to reinstate our suit and proceed with litigation.”

CBF will stay the lawsuit until June 30, 2010, according to John Surrick, director of media relations at CBF.

- By Capital News Service’s Aleksandra Robinson

Sick Midshipmen Quarantined at Naval Academy

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

An outbreak of suspected H1N1 at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis has led officials to quarantine infected students in an isolated area of the Bancroft Hall dorm. The first case of H1N1 was confirmed on Sept. 10, and since then, seven total cases have been confirmed, according to a statement from Deborah Goode, director of media relations at the Academy.

Since the outbreak began, the number of students with influenza-like illness quarantined in Bancroft Hall has been as high as 75, but now is decreasing, and as of Tuesday, 30 students remained isolated, Goode said.

In addition to educating midshipmen on flu prevention and good hygiene, Academy officials are asking midshipmen every morning if they’re experiencing flu-like symptoms, hand sanitizer is being made available at locations throughout the campus and common areas such as bathrooms and locker rooms are being cleaned more frequently in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, the statement said.

Midshipmen in isolation are receiving “continuous monitoring by staff and medical personnel,” as well as meals, fluids, and laundry and bed linen services, the statement said.

In a letter addressed to family and friends of midshipmen, Commandant of Midshipmen Capt. Matthew Klunder said the Academy is also in the process of providing e-mail access and DVD players to isolated midshipmen.

“I am most proud of them as they deal with this unfortunate situation, but we are all pitching in to make their stay as comfortable and pain free as possible,” the letter reads.

All midshipmen have now been vaccinated for seasonal influenza, and when the H1N1 vaccine is ready, the Academy will implement a plan to vaccinate midshipmen and military staff, the statement said.

- By Capital News Service’s Megan E. Gustafson.

Business As Usual on Drug Control

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Radical proposals for fighting the spread of illegal drugs were few and far between at Gov. Martin O’Malley’s roundtable discussion Friday on drug control strategy. But, it was clear the emphasis is shifting toward drug treatment and prevention.

O’Malley met with President Obama’s “Drug Czar” Gil Kerlikowske, House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, law enforcement officials, and community leaders at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County to discuss the subject.

Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said he had ended the “war on drugs” four months ago and was helping the president develop a new drug strategy. But, by and large, Busch, Kerlikowske, and O’Malley stuck to well-worn talking points in a question and answer session with reporters following the meeting.

“We know [successfully fighting drugs is] a combination of three things,” said O’Malley. “It’s not only better and more effective law enforcement, it’s better and more effective interventions in the lives of our most at-risk young people and it’s better and more effective drug treatment and drug prevention.”

When asked whether there was any discussion of legalizing drugs, Kerlikowske said, “The president has a very clear statement about that, and it’s that legalization is not in his vocabulary, and it’s certainly not in mine.”

“And it didn’t come up here,” O’Malley added quickly.

The most novel idea that seemed to come up in the meeting involved the use of alternative medicine.

“[There was some talk about], within the context of wellness, about the effectiveness of acupuncture,” said O’Malley. “I think the director of [Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems] said that ‘I can’t tell you the ins and outs and science of acupuncture, but I can tell you I have numbers that show, where it’s been employed, it’s proven that it’s a big help.’”

- By Capital News Service’s Christopher M. Matthews.

Cardin, Mikulski Secure Funding for Bay Gateways

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, both Maryland Democrats, secured $1 million in funding for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network in a Senate appropriations bill passed late Thursday night.

The Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network includes more than 160 parks, wildlife refuges and museums centered around the Chesapeake Bay, as well as 22 water trails.

“The gateways program will help record our history, protect our bay, reflect our values and renew our sense of pride and wonder,” Mikulski said in a statement. Mikulski is a member of the subcommittee that funds the program.

The funding will also support matching grants of up to $100,000 from the National Park Service for accessibility and stewardship, according to the statement.

Cardin said in the statement: “The bay is one of our nation’s most treasured resources and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network helps visitors understand and appreciate the important role the bay has had in our region’s history and culture.”

- By Capital News Service’s Aleksandra Robinson

A Primer on The Slots Process

Friday, September 25th, 2009

With Wednesday’s decision to grant a slots license to Ocean Downs on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, a months-long journey came to an end for one of the four qualified bidders for “video lottery terminals” in the state.

While some observers have expressed frustration with the length of this journey, Donald C. Fry, chairman of the Video Lottery Facility Location Commission, disagrees.

“It’s funny, people think it’s been a long process, but it took the legislature a long time to get to this point. I don’t think it necessarily took the commission a long time,” Fry said. “Although this was done in a very thorough and deliberative fashion, it was done in a fairly short period of time.”

But, to echo the words of the 80′s band Talking Heads, how did we get here? What must a bidder do to receive a license? Here’s an overview:

Bidders must have submitted a proposal to the slots commission in February along with the necessary fees — $3 million for every 500 machines requested — as well as present their proposal during a public hearing and site visit.

They also are subjected to a myriad of studies — including traffic, economic viability and potential tax revenue generated — and put through an independent background investigation looking into the personal character of the bidders, their financial stability and how successful they’ll be in running the casino.

If they pass the background investigation (the State Lottery Commission must sign off on a bidder before they move forward), the slots commission takes these studies into consideration and makes a decision. They do this based mostly on the projected financial success of the slots parlor (70 percent), with less weight given to jobs created (15 percent) and the positive/negative aspects of the location (15 percent).

There’s much more that goes into the process, but based on the volume of testimony and reports created by the Ocean Downs bid, a great deal of time and energy is being spent on these proposals. The commission’s next meeting is Oct. 7.

- By Capital News Service’s Bobby McMahon

Slots Face Competition from Md. Neighbors

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

CNS photo by Bobby McMahon

High above Route 50 she reclines, sporting a come-hither look and a revealing referee’s uniform. Like the mythical sirens luring sailors toward the rocks with their songs, she tries to entice eastbound drivers with the promise of excitement not found in Maryland.

She is a billboard advertisement from Dover Downs Hotel and Casino, and she has a simple message: “Sports Betting is Coming!” In fact, it’s already here.

As the Video Lottery Facility Location Commission begins deciding on bids this week, the future success of slots could be affected not only by what happens within Maryland, but also by what happens right next door.

Delaware recently began offering limited sports betting (by law, casinos can only offer three game parlays on NFL games), and elected officials in both Pennsylvania and Delaware are considering offering table games like blackjack and roulette in the near future.

But Buddy Roogow, director of the Maryland Lottery, says the new slots parlors will not be adversely affected if states around Maryland begin offering table games. He referenced studies that show slots as the main draw for casino gamers, and said table games and sports betting won’t lure Marylanders over the border.

“I believe that Marylanders who go to casinos in other states will be more likely to stay in Maryland once it opens its facilities,” he says. “That’s independent of whether or not those out of state facilities have sports books or table games.”

by Capital News Service’s Bobby McMahon

Where Should Slots Be Located?

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

As slot machine locations are debated around the state, some residents near proposed locations are getting riled. As CNS reporter Bobby McMahon writes, Philip Van der Vossen, a Hanover resident, lives roughly a quarter mile from a proposed site in Anne Arundel County.

“[Arundel Mills] is not developed to be a casino,” Van der Vossen says. “It’s developed to be a family place.”

Where do you think slots should be located in Maryland? How well do you think the state is handling the selection process?

Md. Company to Be First H1N1 Vaccine Provider

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Maryland’s MedImmune will be the first manufacturer to provide H1N1 vaccines in United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced today.

3.4 million doses of the needle-free nasal spray will be available in the first week of October, says Dr. Jay Butler, chief of 2009 H1N1 Vaccine Task Force.

The number of doses of H1N1 vaccine of all types is eventually expected to increase to 20 million a week.

MedImmune, which has received a U.S. government order for about 13 million doses of the nasal spray, will be manufacturing 40 million to 50 million doses total, says Karen Lancaster from MedImmune’s public relations office.

By Capital News Service’s Sharmina Manandhar

Obama Heckler Has History of Disruptive Behavior

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Andrew Beacham, a 26-year-old intern for Operation Rescue Insurrecta Nex, was ejected Thursday after disrupting President Obama’s health care speech at the University of Maryland.

“I did it because the emperor has no clothes,” Beacham said. “Every time the government puts forth a new proposal, they just find different ways to fund abortion.”

According to Insurrecta Nex, a conservative anti-abortion group based in Washington, D.C., Beacham was also arrested for disrupting Obama’s Notre Dame commencement speech and Sonia Sotomayor’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing.

Beacham was escorted out of the University of Maryland’s Comcast Center by campus police.

“I was detained briefly,” Beacham said. “They asked for some of my personal information, but after that I basically was allowed to walk out of the building.”

By Capital News Service’s Tina Irgang

Obama Seeks Help on Health Care Reform

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

President Obama tells thousands gathered at the University of Maryland’s Comcast Center that he needs their voices and help to reform the health care system.

What are your thoughts on his proposal?