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Posted at 8:50 AM ET, 01/29/2010

Friday news roundup

By Washington Post editors

Good morning! It’s Friday and snow is on the way, but probably not a lot of it, the Capital Weather Gang reports. Today’s temperatures will be in the 30s and yes, it'll be windy, too. Still, some areas will get more than just a dusting. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has already declared a snow emergency in Southwestern Virginia.

Lots going on, so we’ll get right to it.

Metro fare hike likely to be permanent. You’ll be paying 10 cents more per bus, train or MetroAccess trip starting March 1 – part of a temporary fare increase designed to help the beleaguered transit system close a $40 million shortfall in this year’s budget. The increase is set to expire in June, but as The Post’s Ann Scott Tyson reports, it will probably become permanent because Metro’s financial problems are far from over. The good news? No service cuts – at least for now. The Metro board has a new chairman -- he's Peter Benjamin, a veteran engineer who has held senior positions at Metro for 20 years. His first priority: improving the system's safety, which is even more urgent after the deaths early this week of two Metro workers.

Metro crime. WJLA reports that crime has increased slightly on Metro while the Examiner notes that the number of robberies on Metro has jumped dramatically, in part because thieves are stealing iPods and other personal electronic devices.

A job well done. Members of Fairfax County's urban search and rescue team returned Thursday evening after two weeks of nonstop rescue work in Haiti. The team, exhausted from the grueling work, talked about their experiences working 24-hour shifts in the quake-ravaged country. In total, they helped pull 16 people from the rubble. The team was one of the first rescue crews to respond to the massive quake.

Student hackers. In Montgomery County, school officials are investigating a grade-hacking scheme at Potomac's Churchill High School. It is not yet clear the extent of the hacking, how many grades were changed or how many students were involved, but sources told The Post that students had used a password-tracking program to gain access to the school’s computer system. Also, Fox 5.

Anne Frank's Diary banned. Officials in Culpepper County have decided to stop assigning a version of "Anne Frank's Diary" to students after complaints from parents that the special edition released on the 50th anniversary of her death includes sexually explicit material and homosexual themes. Other editions of the book will still be used, school officials said.

Hands-free may not help. It looks like hands-free cellphone use may not necessarily make the roads any safer, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "Our concern with hand-held bans has been that these laws are encouraging drivers to go hands-free, which is just as risky," said Jonathan Adkins of the Governors Highway Safety Association. "We need more research and data to determine whether or not hand-held bans should be implemented across the country."

License plates for repeat offenders? A lawmaker from Prince George’s County has introduced a bill that would require those who have multiple drunk driving convictions to put special license plates on their cars. Marvin E. Holmes (D) said repeat offenders should be required to put the plates on their car for five years. Turns out, other states, including Minnesota and Ohio, have such a program in place. The bill has been introduced twice before in Maryland, but failed.

Somebody’s watching: Your cheating days on the Dulles Toll Road could be over. Virginia officials are considering cameras to catch toll cheats.

A cosmic custody battle. Apparently a custody battle has broken out over the meteorite that broke through the roof of a doctor's office in Lorton this month. The physicians planned to give it to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History for display and donate the $5,000 the Smithsonian was going to give them in exchange to Haitian relief efforts. But now, the building’s landlords have stepped in and said that since the meteorite crashed through the roof of their building, it’s theirs.

A notable passing. Reclusive author J.D. Salinger, whose novel "The Catcher in the Rye" became an enduring anthem of adolescent angst and youthful rebellion, died at 91 at his home in Cornish, N.H., on Wednesday. The Post’s Ian Shapira writes about an English professor at George Mason University whose small literary publishing outfit run from his home in Alexandria came tantalizingly close to publishing J.D. Salinger’s last published work, ”Hapworth 16, 1924,” in book form.

By Washington Post editors  | January 29, 2010; 8:50 AM ET
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