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REGION BRIEFS: Williamsburg celebrating Presidents Day

WILLIAMSBURG—Colonial Williamsburg is celebrating Presidents Day by exploring the lives of three presidents who first exercised their political skills in 18th-century Williamsburg.

The historic area scheduled special programs Saturday and today.

The weekend includes several events in which historic interpreters of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison discuss their terms as president and how their lives were shaped by their experiences in Williamsburg. A full schedule of programs and special events can be found online at

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation operates and maintains the preserved 18th-century site as an educational and tourist venue.


Walter Reed studies depression cures for the military

BETHESDA, Md.—The U.S. military’s flagship medical center is evaluating a technology that could produce more effective anti-depression treatment for service members and veterans.

The California-based company CNS Response Inc. said Friday that Walter Reed National Military Medical Center will use its PEER Interactive technology in a study of 2,000 patients suffering from depression.

The technology enables doctors to compare a patient’s brain scan with those of others in an online registry. The company says doctors can then make better treatment decisions based on the outcomes of other patients.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland says the technology could help determine whether there’s a relationship between increased use of anti-depressants and increased suicide rates among service members and veterans.


Smithsonian offers app for portraits of U.S. presidents

WASHINGTON—The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery has a new way for visitors to see its images of the U.S. presidents up close.

The museum is launching a new iPad app called the “America’s Presidents App,” focused on its most popular collection. The app will serve as a guide to each official presidential portrait with insights on each president.

The museum says users can zoom in on the paintings to view brushstrokes in detail. It also includes facts on each president, copies of historical documents, games, videos and audio recordings to show the president’s personalities and achievements.

Interim Director Wendy Wick Reaves says the app, which costs $6.99, but is discounted to $4.99 at launch, extends the gallery’s reach.


Court tosses D.C jury’s verdict in discrimination case

WASHINGTON—A federal appeals court has overturned a jury verdict that found in favor of five District of Columbia police officers who sued the department for racial discrimination.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said Friday that a lawyer for the officers made inappropriate comments to the jury during closing arguments. The three-judge panel threw out the $900,000 verdict.

The court said the trial judge did not instruct the jury to disregard the comments, which invited jurors to put themselves in the officers’ shoes.


Md. lawmakers aim to ban fake pot

ANNAPOLIS, Md.—Several Maryland lawmakers have introduced measures that would make manufacture, possession or sale of synthetic cannabinoids, known as Spice, K2 or synthetic marijuana, illegal.

Synthetic cannabinoids are sold as a mixture of herbs and spices that have been sprayed with a synthetic compound. The compounds are not derived from the marijuana plant but mimic the effects of THC, the primary ingredient in marijuana.

Lawmakers say the synthetic drugs are easy to obtain and have harsher effects than regular marijuana, including agitation, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure and paranoia.


Maryland bans ‘sky lanterns,’ citing fire hazard

PIKESVILLE, Md.—The Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office says it’s banning a type of burning, airborne decoration called a “sky lantern.”

The agency said Friday that the balloon-shaped devices can return to earth and start fires.

Sky lanterns are popular in East Asia. They’re typically made of oiled rice paper on a bamboo frame.

A lighted candle or fuel cell heats the air inside the device, causing it to soar upward.

The agency says some other states have also banned the devices.


Va.’s Langley AFB cancels air show

HAMPTON—Budget concerns out of Washington continue to be felt by the military in Virginia.

Langley Air Force Base in Hampton announced Friday it is canceling an air show scheduled for May because of the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration set to kick in March 1. Langley said the decision to cancel the 2013 Air Power Over Hampton Roads Open House and Air Show was difficult because of its popularity but it’s necessary.

Col. Korvin Auch, commander of the 633rd Air Base Wing, described the decision as “prudent.”

One week ago, the Navy postponed the overhaul of one of its nuclear-powered aircraft carriers because of budget concerns. It has said other cost-cutting actions might also be necessary. The military has a huge presence in Virginia.


Eastern Shore arsons near 50

HALLWOOD—Authorities say another fire has been set on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

The Virginian–Pilot reports that the latest was reported Thursday night in Hallwood. No one was injured in the structure fire, which was described as minor.

The torching occurred hours after Virginia State Police announced that a reward of $25,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the string of arsons. That’s up from the previous bounty of $5,000.

Nearly 50 fires have been reported in recent weeks.


Richmond man sentenced in fraud scheme

RICHMOND—A 75-year-old Richmond man has been sentenced to 14 months in prison for mail fraud and money laundering. Allen Mead Ferguson also was ordered Friday in federal court in Richmond to forfeit $5.7 million and pay $2.9 million in restitution.

Federal prosecutors say Ferguson obtained millions of dollars in loans from financial institutions through fake loan applications. Ferguson filed for bankruptcy in 2011.


Four rescued from grounded boat near Tangier isle  

BALTIMORE—The Coast Guard has rescued four people, including two crew members of a marine police boat, near Tangier Island. The rescue happened just after midnight Saturday when a Coast Guard helicopter crew hoisted four people from a grounded vessel.

The Virginia Marine Police responded Friday night after the owner of a 36-foot-boat reported that his boat had run aground near Tangier Island.

But the marine police boat that responded also ran aground after picking up the boat owner and his son, prompting the Coast Guard to respond with an MH-60 Jayhawk Helicopter.


Two arrested in robbery of U.MD. students

COLLEGE PARK, Md.—Prince George’s County police have arrested two men accused of robbing two University of Maryland students in College Park.

Police on Saturday identified the men as Akauh Johann Kassi, of Silver Spring, and Diamante Akeem Sulaiman, of Burtonsville.

Both are 18 years old and face charges including robbery and second-degree assault.

Police say the two men approached two students at Baltimore Avenue and Pontiac Street just after midnight on Saturday, assaulted them and stole their cell phones and a wallet.

Neither student was injured.

Kassi and Sulaiman were stopped not far from the robbery location.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the men have attorneys.


Groups aim to feed children in summer

RICHMOND—The Virginia Department of Health is looking for organizations that can serve meals to children during the summer.

The department will reimburse groups that participate in the Summer Food Service Program for the meals and administrative costs. New participants are required to attend food service program training.

The deadline for submitting an application is April 26.

The summer feeding program serves meals at no charge to children in economically distressed areas and to mentally or physically disabled students over age 18. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides funding for the program.

Summer Food Service Program,


Elizabeth Smart to speak at  college

BRIDGEWATER—The woman whose kidnapping as a 14-year-old caused a national sensation will speak at Virginia’s Bridgewater College this month.

Elizabeth Smart is scheduled to tell her story on Feb. 25 at the college’s Cole Hall.

She was abducted from her Salt Lake City bedroom at knifepoint in June 2002 and spent nine months in captivity. Brian David Mitchell is now serving two life sentences.

Now 25, Smart says the ordeal has taught her the importance of discussing child abuse and sexual abuse.


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