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Posted at 5:47 AM ET, 03/11/2011

A.M. Buzz: Japan quake and tsunami, gay marriage

By Lori Aratani
Washington Post editors

Good morning. It's Friday and clear skies are in the forecast. In D.C., tensions at city hall turned what normally would have been a low-key committee hearing into a tense debate over Mayor Vincent Gray's hiring practices. We've also got another look at discipline policies in Fairfax County Public Schools. And today could be a historic day in Maryland's state capital.

Japan quake. It's not local, but we know folks might be concerned, so here's where you can go for continuous updates about the 8.9 earthquake followed by a tsunami that struck the east coast of Japan Friday afternoon. More than 30 people have died; it is the largest quake to hit Japan in more than 100 years. Do you know someone who might be affected by the quake? Let us know; e-mail

Federal Eye blogger Ed O'Keefe sends this along: Americans concerned about family, friends and colleagues in Japan can e-mail

Coming up:

A day to dry out. Looks like we'll have a few days to dry out. The Capital Weather Gang says it'll be breezy today with temperatures in the low-to-mid-50's. Depending on how much sunshine gets through the cloud cover, it could feel a bit warmer or a bit colder. Saturday, however, is shaping up to be a great day with temperatures in the 60-degree range. Just another reason to look forward to the weekend.

A history-making day in Maryland? Legislators are preparing for a vote on a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland. Early on, it appeared that the legislation would pass easily, but in the last few weeks, supporters of the measure have been scrambling to find enough votes to pass the measure and send it to Gov. Martin O'Malley's desk. As of late Thursday night, several bill supporters acknowledged they still remain short of the 71 votes needed. Debate is scheduled to begin around mid-morning. Proceedings will begin at 11 a.m. but expect some housekeeping before actual debate begins. We'll be live-blogging the proceedings so be sure to check back with us.

A difficult decision. While several states have embrace gay marriage and a number of others have measure on the books in support of civil unions, the issue still remains deeply divisive in many communities. Tiffany T. Alston, a freshman delegate from Prince George's County, talks about what happens when your views on an issue conflict with those of your constituents.

Today's headlines:

Did the punishment fit the crime? More questions are being asked about school discipline practices in Fairfax County Public Schools -- and whether punishments may be too harsh. In the latest case, Hayley Russell, now 14, was suspended from Rachel Carson Middle School because she had a bottle of prescription acne medicine in her locker. Her actions violated a rule that requires students to keep prescription medicine in the school clinic. The Fairfax County School Board is set to review discipline policies at a meeting on Monday.

Prince George's County and the budget. In a meeting with Post editors and reporters on Thursday, Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker outlined some of his budget priorities for the next fiscal year. Baker is expect to formally unveil his budget plan on Monday. As part of this plan, Baker said he would offset spending increases and reduce the county's $77 million budget deficit for fiscal 2012 by forcing across-the-board cuts for most agencies and continuing a wage freeze for the county's 6,000 employees.

East Coast rapist victim speaks. A Leesburg woman who was attacked by the East Coast rapist nearly a decade ago said she was relieved when she learned news that a suspect was in custody and is ready to confront the man who terrorized her and more than a dozen other women. She and other victims have long feared as long as the man was at large, he might return and attack again.

In short. Prince George's County Council member Leslie Johnson has requested another delay in her previously rescheduled preliminary hearing on federal evidence tampering charges, saying she needs more time to investigate the allegations (Post); UDC President Allen Sessoms, under fire for what some see as lavish travel expenses, tells NBC 4 that he requires special travel accommodations. (NBC 4)

Other items.

Big feet? Researchers at the University of Virginia and the University of Maryland have invented a tool that will allow you to calculate your nitrogen footprint. Why should you care? While it's not a greenhouse gas like carbon is, in certain forms it is a pollutant.

That's it for now. Thanks for reading and have a great day. Be sure to check back with us for more updates about the debate on same-sex marriage in Maryland as well as the latest updates on the quake in Japan.

By Lori Aratani  | March 11, 2011; 5:47 AM ET
Categories:  AM Buzz  | Tags:  loris am buzz  
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Next: Earthquake, tsunami: Tell us what you see


A prayer for the people of Japan and their loved ones here and the States or abroad. Along with resounding 'YES" for gay marriage in Maryland.

Posted by: hotfuzz | March 11, 2011 9:34 AM | Report abuse

It's time MD, get with it; it's the 21st century, and we have more important things to do then watch you try to grow up...

Onward, Joe Mustich,
CT Justice of the Peace, USA.

The marriage cops need to retire and play some bingo or golf in the Potomac.

Posted by: cornetmustich | March 11, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

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