Early Briefing: D.C., Nats Tussle Over Stadium

* Night after night, tens of thousands of fans crowd into Nationals Park to watch baseball. The views are spectacular, the scoreboard is dazzling, the team can't hit -- ah, well, you can't have everything. But at least the stadium, against many expectations, got built on time and on budget.

Or did it?

Metro columnist Marc Fisher writes that a snippy legal battle between the Washington Nationals and the District government has been raging behind the scenes since February. Even now, a quarter of the way into the first season at Nats Park, the team's owners are demanding that the city cough up $100,000 a day in damages because, according to the Nationals, the stadium was not completed in time for Opening Night in March.

* Fewer Washington area residents are expected to hit the roads and skies this Memorial Day weekend, as travel over the holiday is predicted to drop for the first time since Sept. 11, 2001. Blame skyrocketing gas prices, costly airfares and worries about a recession, analysts said.

AAA Mid-Atlantic predicts that 12 percent of Washington area residents will travel 50 miles or more from home this weekend, about 1 percent fewer than last year.

* Sallie Mae said it plans to stay in the student loan business after the government outlined a financial rescue plan for student loan companies, offering to buy federally subsidized loans that lenders said had become unprofitable.

The action is intended to protect lenders from losses over the next year and make sure that students have uninterrupted access to loans, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said in a letter yesterday that detailed the plan.

Under the plan, lenders will have the option of selling the government securities backed by student loans on terms markedly more favorable than the rates now available in the financial markets.

Sallie Mae chief executive Albert L. Lord, whose company had said it might stop making federal loans, hailed the announcement as "practical, workable and maybe most of all quite helpful."

By Dan Beyers  |  May 22, 2008; 7:33 AM ET
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