4 Empty PGCPS School Buses Catch Fire in Parking Lot

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Fire officials say four school buses caught fire in a parking lot, causing a quarter of a million dollars in damage.

The Prince George’s County Fire Department says the fire was reported about 9 a.m. Sunday in the Brandywine area at a school bus parking on Short Cut Road. Four buses were on fire.

The fire was extinguished and no one was injured. Investigators believe the fire originated in one of the buses and then spread.

The cause remains under investigation.

Damages are estimated at $250,000.

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Tension high as HB1565 leaves Prince George’s County delegation

17203251_1217231075059854_5951759071073531001_nThe tension has been high as HB1565 finally left the Prince George’s County delegation in a version which does not fix  nor address the most critical issues it was meant to address on March 10th, 2017.

According to the people in the meeting, the raucous meeting among the Education delegation for Prince George’s county revealed more internal turmoil in a political committee struggling to preserve its independence amid pressure from party leaders to rally behind such causes as extending term limits and endorsement of the central office staff at the expense of many in Prince George’s County public schools.

First, Delegate Howard who sabotaged the bill HB1565 from the very beginning saw her amendments rejected by the committee. The only amendment considered by the committee was from Delegate Walker and Delegate Geraldine Valentino-Smith. From our understanding Delegate Walker wants the Vice Chair elected by the elected Board members at Sasscer administrative building. Some on the committee do not support these initiatives, and others think the committee should not take a position until next year since the law was only passed recently.

Delegate Geraldine Valentino-Smith wants the evaluation of the performance of the entire system conducted on or around October 1st, from December 31st. The bill now goes to the ways and means committee where it is expected to pass but there are no guarantees. From there the bill is expected to go to full house as a Prince George’s delegation bill before crossing over to the senate side where it may die or survive. If it survives, there might be more amendments before sending it back to the house. Time will tell what happens from here. But it does not smell good based on the people we spoke with in Annapolis.

The fissures come at a critical time for Maryland Democrats. Party committees across the state are supposed to be mobilizing to help elect a new Governor and leaders with credibility who are expected to challenge Governor Larry Hogan.  And the Prince George’s delegation in collaboration with the Democratic central committee is supposed to help instruct the county’s more than 427,000 registered Democrats on how they should vote and lead the way. However, with corruption high, citizenry of the county have a lot to worry about.

County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), an unapologetic critic of term limits, is suspected to be behind the scenes with others in giving wrong advise to the Delegation in Annapolis so that the status quo stays at the expense of the Children of Prince Georges County. This is not how democracy is supposed to work. In 2014, Mr. Baker asked the Democratic central committee not only to include the sample ballot sent to Democratic voters but also to go a step further and recommend a “yes” vote. This move promoted corruption which continues to date!

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Prince George’s Co. bus drivers worried office infested with mold

IMG_9153PRINCE GEORGE’S CO., MD (WUSA9) – Bus drivers with Prince George’s County Public Schools say the office they check in and out of every day is making them sick. Many are worried the building is infested with mold.

“It’s unbearable. When you go in there you just smell some kind of weird odor”, said driver Kirt Williams. “And then after that your throats starts scratching and your nose feels kinda funny. And with me, my eyes get real watery.”

The building is a temporary trailer, but Driver Tujuana Bigelow said it has been there for about twenty years old.

“It’s hard- our foreman is in such bad shape being in that building all day long he was in the emergency room last night,” she said. “So I mean we can’t continue to work in this environment.

One hundred and eight bus drivers go in and out of the building each day.

Officials with the PGCPS said the building had been tested earlier this week to confirm whether there is mold.

Prince George’s County School Board member Edward Burroughs III said he’s been waiting at the site all week for testing crews- that didn’t show up.

“Frankly, I’m livid,” he said. “And if it has been tested Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday where are the results? We need to make those results public.”

The building was tested Wednesday afternoon.

Susan Nelson is among others who are now wearing face masks when they go into work.

“It feels like your throat is stopping up for one thing, you nose gets discomfort, very much so, and your eyes water,” she said.

via WUSA9

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The People Who Die to Make Your Cell Phone

With a population of at least 67 million, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the poorest countries in the world. In 2014, the World Bank ranked it second to last on the Human Development Index.

Despite the DRC’s poverty level, there is one thing that it has in abundance – cobalt. Cobalt is a mineral used to make lithium ion batteries that Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, Dell, and many other companies use in their devices.

According to experts, more than half of the world’s supply of cobalt comes from the DRC, with 20 percent of it from what are called “artisanal mines.” For many Congolese people, mining cobalt is the only way to feed their families. Unfortunately, artisanal mines are smaller, independent mines, where an industrial-sized operation is not an option. These mines are unregulated and are not a part of the country’s Mining Code and Regulations, this means they are often unauthorized and extremely dangerous.

As a result, the workers are subjected to dangerous conditions that include poor ventilation, lack of protective gear, and frequent accidents—many of which prove deadly. But it’s not just adults that are risking their lives. The United Nations says there are at least 40,000 children in the DRC working in these artisanal mines. Working in high temperatures, rain, and storms, children as young as 7-years-old carry sacks of mineral ore that are sometimes heavier than themselves. Most of these children’s parents can’t afford to send them to school. The few that are able to send their kids to school must have their children work at the mines on the weekends to help support the family. Many suffer from breathing problems, others from sickness and disease. At least half reported being beaten for not working fast enough.

Some of the possible long-term effects the children suffer from include joint and bone deformities, respiratory issues, and musculoskeletal injuries. Most complained of excruciating back and hip pain, others of chronic illness. But beyond the physical risks are less visible dangers. Chronic exposure to cobalt can be fatal, resulting in a condition called “hard metal lung disease.”

Despite the prevalence of studies confirming this, most of these miners work without protective equipment—no gloves, masks, or even work clothes. The workers are not provided safety equipment nor given directions on what to do in a crisis. Without any sort of armor against the hazardous conditions, death is common.

The route of the cobalt from these mines can be followed to a large corporation called Congo Dongfang Mining International (CDM). CDM is a subsidiary of the China-based company Huayou Cobalt, which supplies batteries to the most prestigious tech companies—including Apple, Sony, Samsung, Dell, and more.

Millions of people around the world enjoy the benefits of technologies that use cobalt but few are concerned with how they are made.

Source: 

7-Year-Old Children Mining Cobalt For Apple, Microsoft, & Samsung Products ? – Collective Evolution

Apple buys a key iPhone component from brutal Congolese mines. It’s trying to stop. Time will tell if they follow through on their promises.

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The People Who Die to Make Your Cell Phone – With a population of at least 67 million, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the poorest countries in the world.

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Former Staffer Accused Maryland Judge of Years of Sexual Harassment

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Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Hassan El-Amin

A circuit court judge in Maryland is accused by a former staffer of sexual harassment.

Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Hassan El-Amin’s former administrative assistant Denise Lowe-Williams said she lived with ongoing harassment by her then-boss for years, but she felt like she had to deal with it because she was an at-will employee.

“He would take these pictures, and I asked him eventually, ‘What are you going to do with these pictures?’ and he said he was going to make a calendar,” Williams said.

Judge El-Amin once made a crude comment indicating he was aroused by a skirt she wore, Williams said. He also told Williams he liked the way her behind looked in a dress she wore, she said.

He also found a way to be inappropriate with evidence from a case over which he presided, she said.

“It had something to do with, I think, sexual abuse, or something like that, and he had explicit pictures, and he called me in his office to show me these pictures,” Williams said.

She finally became fed up, filed a complaint and hired an attorney. But his behavior got worse, she said.

“When he told me I wasn’t giving him enough attention, I just needed to seek help,” Williams said.

She said she began seeing a therapist.

After filing her complaint, a letter to Williams’ attorney from the Maryland Attorney General’s Office said, “Remedial action was taken to both address and prevent any potential harassing conduct.”

Williams feels there should be more transparency, as the letter said the discipline is confidential.

“A lot of people ask me, ‘Well, what’s going on Denise?’ You know, ‘What are they doing?’ I don’t know. You know why I don’t know? All I’m told is that he’s been sanctioned,” Williams said.

After she filed her complaint, all of the judges in the 7th Judicial Circuit–which includes Charles County, St. Mary’s County, Calvert County and Prince George’s County were trained again on appropriate office behavior.

Williams still works at the Prince George’s County courthouse, but she’s been reassigned so she no longer works with Judge El-Amin.

“My hope is that if somebody else has been through this or is going through this that this will encourage them to speak up about it,” Williams said.

News4 contacted El-Amin’s chambers and he said he had no comment on the allegations.

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Prince George’s Circuit Court Judge H. El-Amin is disciplined for sexually harassing an employee in Prince George’s County

Source: Former Staffer Accused Maryland Judge of Years of Sexual Harassment | NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Former-Staffer-Accuses-Maryland-Judge-Years-Sexual-Harassment-415520063.html?_osource=SocialFlowTwt_DCBrand#ixzz4alf07mzQ
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Former Md. Del. Michael Vaughn charged with selling his vote in bribery scheme

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Former Maryland State Del. Michael Vaughn (D-Prince George’s)

Former Maryland State Del. Michael Vaughn (D-Prince George’s) has been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with a wide-ranging bribery scheme and the theft of campaign funds to cover his personal bills.

Federal authorities allege Vaughn received more than $10,000 in cash from liquor store owners in exchange for favorable legislation that would expand liquor sales in Prince George’s County or edge out the competitors of those who paid him.

Vaughn had resigned from the legislature in January after news of the federal probe of the local liquor board broke and resulted in the initial arrest of two liquor store owners, the head liquor board inspector and a member of the commission. Vaughn, who served as a delegate from 2003 to 2017, cited health reasons for his resignation.

A judge allowed Vaughn released on his own personal recognizance during his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt Wednesday. Vaughn, 59, arrived at the hearing in a dark pinstripe suit and answered “Yes, sir” when the judge asked questions and informed him of his rights. Vaughn was ordered to avoid contact with victims, witnesses and others charged in the case, along with people who contributed to his campaign since 2012.

His attorney declined comment after the hearing.

 Vaughn was indicted on eight counts of wire fraud, conspiracy and bribery in connection with actions that occurred during his time in office between 2012 and 2016.

Federal authorities also accuse Vaughn of illegally shifting money donated to his campaign for his personal use, according to a statement from the government. The allegations involve at least $6,000 in funds, the indictment states.

If convicted, Vaughn faces up to 65 years in prison.

In Annapolis, House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said, “this is a sad day for the Maryland General Assembly. We are sworn to protect the public trust, and if proven, this was an egregious violation of that trust and a violation of criminal law. I’m deeply disappointed that any member of the House would compromise our Democratic process.”

Sen. President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) called the indictment “distressing.”

“It’s before the courts, he’s resigned from the House of Delegates and we’ll just have to see what the courts have to say,” he said.

 In January, four others were arrested in connection with the long-running probe by the FBI: David Dae Sok Son, 40, the director of the liquor board in Prince George’s. Anuj Sud, 39, a county liquor board commissioner who resigned; Young Jung Paig, 62, owner of Central Avenue Restaurant & Liquor Store; and Shin Ja Lee, 55, owner of Palmer Liquor Store.

On the day of their arrests, the FBI raided the county liquor board officers and several locations throughout the county.

Federal authorities allege Son served as a middle man, transferring the cash from liquor store owners Paig and Lee to Vaughn.

The indictment against Vaughn, unsealed late Tuesday, alleges that in one instance, Vaughn met Son, Paig and Lee at a restaurant in Bowie. Afterward, Paig got into Vaughn’s car and handed over $4,000, half of which Vaughn deposited into an ATM immediately after the meeting, the indictment states.

Vaughn also accepted bribes as liquor store owners sought legislation that would limit their competitors, the government alleges.

Vaughn had served in the House of Delegates from January 2003. In addition to being the Deputy Majority Whip, he also served on the Economic Matters Committee, which deals with bills that regulate alcohol, as well as banking, economic development, insurance and utilities. The government said Vaughn boasted that his position on the committee would allow him to help amend or kill proposed liquor legislation.

“At the end of the day, [the committee] has final say so… I’m gonna be checking and double checking. Making sure none of this… slip through,” the indictment states.

Vaughn was born in Tuskegee, Ala. He attended DuVal High School in Prince George’s County before receiving a bachelor’s degree from Southern University in Louisiana.

He also worked in sales for Marriott and Hilton’s Embassy Row Hotel in Washington. Vaughn owns ADDR Properties, a real estate company in Mitchellville, according to Maryland assessment records.

In a related case, former state Del. William A. Campos (D-Prince George’s) pleaded guilty to funneling government money and performing other officials favors to those who paid him bribes and kickbacks during his time as a county council member.

Federal prosecutors would not detail how Campos is directly involved with the liquor-board investigation in which Vaughn and others were charged.

But in charging affidavits,prosecutors said two elected officials started working as informants in the liquor board investigation to avoid harsh sentencing on other corruption charges. One cooperator is described as a former elected official who took a plea agreement and helped federal agents in the case between June 2014 and July 2015, months before Campos resigned from the state legislature.

Several details in Campos’s plea agreement, such as cash totals, conversations, and promised favors, appear to align with the description of an informant in the charges brought against others.

Via Washington Post

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Former MD state Del. Michael L. Vaughn right, leaves courthouse w/his atty. William Purpura after initial court appearance. @WashInformer

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