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Posted at 8:03 AM ET, 02/10/2011

Buzz: Pepco, Tolkien, iPhone

By Lori Aratani
Washington Post editors

Good morning. Looks like we had a light dusting of snow overnight, so be careful on the commute in and let us know if you see anything. A handful of schools in Virginia and Maryland have announced delays or closures, including Prince George's, St. Mary's, Fauquier and Stafford counties.

Sunshine with a chill. After a dusting of snow last night, it's another coat, scarf, mitten and hat day. The Capital Weather Gang says it will be sunny, but chilly again today. Those pesky winds are back. Temperatures should be in the mid-to-high 30's -- but the winds will make it feel a bit chillier so bundle up.

Coming up:

Pepco hearing in D.C. Pepco executives have appeared before the state legislature in Annapolis and at hearings in Montgomery and Prince George's. Now it's D.C.'s turn to grill Pepco executives about the utility's performance, particularly during the Jan. 26 snow storm that left more than 200,000 customers in the region without power -- some for as long as three days. District regulators will grill Pepco executives Thursday during a hearing before the city's Public Service Commission. The hearing is slated to begin at 10 a.m. We'll have full coverage of the hearing on PostLocal.

Metro and bag searches, escalators. Several Metro board committees will meet today including the Customer Service and Operations Committee, which will take up the issue of bag searches.This will be the board's first scheduled public discussion of the new policy imposed by the transit authority in December. The committee will also discuss issues related to the system's escalator woes, which a new report has found, are worsening.

Verizon and the iPhone. Verizon customers should begin getting their iPhones today. The Post's Rob Pegoraro will be posting a review of the iPhone's much-anticipated arrival as part of the Verizon network later today. In the meantime, here are some answers to common questions folks have about Verizon and the iPhone4.

The Tolkien prof. Washington College professor Corey Olsen has a lot to say about Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien. So much, in fact, that's he started a Tolkien web site and has produced podcasts that now have been downloaded about a million times. You can chat with the Tolkien professor online today at 10 a.m.

Today's headlines:

The changing face of Maryland. In another demographic shift, Census figures released Wednesday show that minorities are now the majority in Montgomery County. In both Montgomery and Prince George's counties, whites were largely replaced by Hispanics, a Washington Post analysis of the detailed census statistics shows. Hispanics outnumber blacks in Montgomery and just edge past whites in Prince George's County.

Needle exchange in D.C. PreventionWorks, D.C.'s leading provider of clean needles to drug addicts in the District, has announced it will cease operations at the end of February. The cause? Dwindling private donations, delays in city funding and high turnover among the non-profit's top managers.

A speedier Metro trip? Metro officials are hoping new equipment will speed SmarTrip card uses more quickly through fare gates. The transit authority is putting plastic domes over each of the SmarTrip card readers on every fare gate. The domes are intended to allow the antenna of the SmarTrip card reader to be better positioned to communicate with the card, a Metro spokeswoman said. Let us know if the domes help you move faster. Post below or drop us a line at

Bras, jail and metal detectors. New metal detectors at the Prince George's County jail made for some awkward conversations when female visitors were told they'd have to remove their underwire bras because they set off the machines. Several women protested and it turned out it was not policy, but a training issue.

In short. Maryland drivers may be paying as much as 10 cents more per gallon for gas as legislators consider a plan to raise the gas tax (NBC 4); Virginia Sen. Jim Webb announced Wednesday he will not seek reelection in 2012, opening the door for the possible return of former U.S. Sen. George Allen, who Webb defeated in 2006 (Post); residents in some Maryland counties including Frederick, Prince George's and Montgomery counties are being told that the odd odor in the air is from a gas leak in West Virginia and is not considered dangerous (The Baltimore Sun)

Other items.

Cheap chic. For just $34.95 you can dress like First Lady Michelle Obama. The fashionistas and bargain hunters were all abuzz over the navy polka dot knee-length day dress with a ruffled collar that Obama wore during a recent appearance on the "Today Show." The dress, by Swedish retail chain H&M, retails for $34.95. Though given the frock's newfound popularity, my guess is you may have to pay more to get it on eBay.

That's it for now. Thanks for reading and be sure to check back with PostLocal for more news and updates throughout the day.

By Lori Aratani  | February 10, 2011; 8:03 AM ET
Categories:  AM Buzz  | Tags:  loris am buzz  
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