BBQ Competition to Film in Arlington? — A production company from New York is apparently scouting locations in Arlington for the filming of a BBQ competition show. The show would then air on network television. [Falls Church News-Press]
APS to Discuss Williamsburg Plans — Arlington Public Schools will be holding two meetings to discuss plans to build a new elementary school at the Williamsburg Middle School site. The meetings will be held on Nov. 13 and 14. The school is expected to open by September 2015. [Arlington Public Schools]
Eternal Flame Restored at Arlington Cemetery — The eternal flame at the President John F. Kennedy gravesite has been restored following several months of repairs. A temporary flame was installed during the repairs. The flame was transferred back to the permanent burner on Tuesday. [Military Times]
Flickr pool photo by Sunday Money
Earlier this year, the county held a public hearing about designating the tiny 7,100 square foot Calloway Cemetery at 5000 Lee Highway a historic district. The cemetery, which dates back to the 19th century, is part of Calloway United Methodist Church, in the Hall’s Hill area.
A new county-produced video (above) explores the history of the cemetery plot and the process of documenting and preserving its historic features.
Neighborhood Thanks Power Crews – A few special guests stopped by the Waycroft-Woodlawn Fourth of July picnic yesterday (see photo, above). The neighborhood invited two hard-working power crews from Ontario, Canada to have a quick lunch with them. “The community clapped and cheered to say thanks,” writes resident Jim Pebley. “Was a nice moment after a long hot couple days.”
Storm Damage at Arlington National Cemetery — Arlington National Cemetery is reporting some significant damage in the wake of last Friday’s storms. The cemetery lost three of its oldest trees, which are all between 225 and 240 years old. In all, 8 large trees were lost and 17 were damaged to the point where they need to be removed. Falling trees also damaged some headstones. The cemetery says the damage is similar to that suffered during Hurricane Irene. The cemetery “continues to assess the extent of the damage and has started on the restoration.” [Arlington National Cemetery]
Hospital Visits Up Last Weekend — The number of patient visits to Virginia Hospital Center were about 30 percent higher than normal last weekend, largely due to heat-related symptoms, especially among the elderly, following Friday’s storms. No heat-related deaths have been reported in Arlington since the storms. [Arlington Mercury]
Tree Destroyed House While Family Was Inside — An Arlington couple and their two young girls were, amazingly, unharmed after a large oak tree came crashing through their house during Friday’s storm. The family was at home at the time. The parents were watching a movie in the basement; they came upstairs to find the girls still sleeping in their beds. [WUSA 9]
Blackwell Re-Elected as RNC Rep — Arlington resident Morton Blackwell — founder of the Courthouse-based Leadership Institute, a conservative political training organization — has been re-elected as Virginia representative to the Republican National Committee. [Sun Gazette]
Photo courtesy Jim Pebley
The man accused of firing bullets at the Pentagon and other military installations in Northern Virginia pleaded guilty in federal court today.
Yonathan Melaku, 23, of Alexandria, pleaded guilty to three counts of: damaging government property, using a firearm during a crime, and attempted injury to veterans’ memorials. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have jointly asked for a 25-year sentence.
As part of the plea, Melaku admitted that on or around the early morning of Oct. 19, 2010 he fired multiple 9mm rounds at the Pentagon building. He also admitted to firing bullets at the National Museum of the Marine Corps (twice), a Marine Corps recruiting sub-station in Chantilly, and a U.S. Coast Guard recruiting office in Woodbridge. The shootings took place between Oct. 17, 2010 and Nov. 2, 2010.
Prosecutors say terrorism was the motive of the shootings. In a video, investigators say Melaku can be seen firing a handgun out of the passenger-side window of his car, then repeatedly shouting “Allahu Akbar.”
“Yonathan Melaku pled guilty to carrying out a calculated, destructive campaign to instill terror throughout our community,” U.S. Attorney MacBride said in a statement. “The video he filmed during one drive-by shooting is a chilling portrayal of his intent and the escalating danger he posed. Thanks to the FBI and their law enforcement partners, we were able to apprehend Mr. Melaku, develop the evidence that linked him to the shootings, and secure this conviction today.”
Melaku was arrested on June 17, 2011 after what’s being described as an unsuccessful attempt to vandalize the graves of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at Arlington National Cemetery. At about 1:30 a.m., police spotted Melaku on the property of Ft. Myer. He attempted to flee, and dropped a backpack in the process.
Prosecutors say the backpack contained “numerous spent 9mm shell casings; four bags containing ammonium nitrate, and a spiral notebook with numerous Arabic statements referencing the Taliban, al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, ‘The Path to Jihad,’ as well as a list of several other individuals associated with foreign terrorist organizations.”
After he was taken into custody, Melaku admitted that he was trying to sneak into Arlington National Cemetery “to desecrate and injure the grave markers by spray-painting the markers with Arabic statements and by leaving the ammonium nitrate he was carrying at the sites of the grave markers.”
Later, prosecutors say, a list of parts for a bomb detonator was discovered in Melaku’s Alexandria home.
The FBI-led investigation received assistance from Arlington County Police, Virginia State Police, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, U.S. Park Police and other federal and local law enforcement agencies.
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who died at the age of 92 last Monday, was a towering figure in the Senate, even as his health began to deteriorate in recent years. He chaired the powerful Appropriations Committee and has twice served as Senate majority leader. He was derided as the “King of Pork” for his tireless efforts to steer federal funds to his home state of West Virginia. His passionate floor speeches against the Iraq war and in support of the Constitution are the stuff of legends.
Byrd, once a local leader in the Ku Klux Klan, filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act. His membership in the Baptist church would later prompt him to renounce intolerance and vote for the 1968 Civil Rights Act.
At this morning’s funeral at the Memorial Baptist Church on North Glebe Road, speakers focused more on Byrd’s Baptist beliefs than on his former bigotry.
“He described himself to me as a born-again, old-time-religion, Bible-based Christian,” Smith said, recalling a time when Byrd recited 20 Bible verses by memory following a church service.
A number of dignitaries were among those filling the wooden pews in the church’s sunny white sanctuary. They included Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), former U.S. senator Paul Sarbanes and Victoria Reggie Kennedy, wife of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Music played a central role in the service. The sounds of mountain fiddle music filled the church as mourners took their seats. A 21-person choir later performed “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” It was a fitting tribute to Byrd, who was himself an accomplished fiddler and occasional singer.