News Briefs from Around the State - Southern Maryland Headline News

News Briefs from Around the State

Experts Address Nitrogen's Benefits, Challenges

WASHINGTON - Environmental experts Saturday stressed the importance of balancing the agricultural and nutritional benefits of nitrogen with the harsh environmental effects it can have on air and water quality.

Though most industrialized parts of the world, including the United States, have an abundance of the nutrient found in manure and fertilizer, other areas, including several countries in Africa, suffer from a deficiency of nitrogen in soil. A deficiency can result in low crop yields and serious nutritional problems, said Cheryl A. Palm, senior research scientist at Columbia University's Earth Institute.

"Unhealthy soil means unhealthy people," Palm said in a speech at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In regions where nitrogen is deficient, an increase in population coupled with a decrease in food supply can result in stunted growth in children, she added.

In Maryland, however, excess nitrogen has been an ongoing problem, especially in runoff flowing from farms into the Chesapeake Bay. Excessive levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in water can cause algae to form, preventing fish, crabs and other sea life from getting adequate oxygen.

In December, the Maryland Department of the Environment submitted its plan to the Environmental Protection Agency for a "pollution diet" aimed at reducing harmful nitrogen and phosphorous levels in the bay. Five other states and the District of Columbia also submitted plans to the EPA.

James Galloway, a professor in environmental science at the University of Virginia, summed up the global problem succinctly.

"How do we feed the world and protect the environment at the same time?" he asked.

One solution Galloway proposed is to cut down on nitrogen use where it is not needed - namely, by reducing the burning of fossil fuels, which can emit harmful amounts of the compound into the air.

"That's the no-brainer," he said. "We don't need to do that."

-By Maryland Newsline's Madhu Rajaraman

Bethesda Bar Owner Awarded Liquor License for Thirsty Turtle Space

The space on Baltimore Avenue in College Park formerly occupied by the Thirsty Turtle may have just gotten a new tenant.

The Prince George's County Liquor Control Board unanimously voted Tuesday to award John F. McManus, owner of The Barking Dog in Bethesda, Md., a Class B liquor license for beer, wine and liquor at 7416 Baltimore Ave. A Class B license allows alcohol to be served and consumed on location.

The approval allows McManus to negotiate a contract with the space's landlord and Thirsty Turtle owner Alan Wanuck, who still holds the lease. McManus said the three parties have been in discussions for three months, but a deal was contingent on McManus securing a liquor license.

The Thirsty Turtle had its liquor license stripped Nov. 3, after evidence of underage drinking was brought to light after the stabbing of four men, three of them underage, following an altercation inside the bar.

The Barking Dog owner said he expects details to be worked out quickly. Though McManus said he felt badly for Thirty Turtle ownership, he said he wouldn't make the same mistakes as his predecessors. "I have nothing to do with those people," he said.

"It's a great location, it's a great space," McManus said. "University of Maryland's not going anywhere. There's not a whole lot of options (in College Park), really. ... That building is inherently really nice. It needs some spit and polish. Right now, it looks like a wounded animal. Once it gets cleaned up, and fixed up, and organized and set up, people are going to be really surprised."

McManus said he will have a target on his back at first, given the space's history, but hoped to win over the community quickly. But he said some who were fans of the Thirsty Turtle probably won't be fans of The Barking Dog. "The freshmen won't like it," McManus said. "They're welcome to come in and eat, but not drink."

Sgt. Ken Leonard, spokesman for University of Maryland police, said he wants to meet McManus soon to "get on equal footing," given the space's recent history.

"Hopefully it'll be a successful business and a good draw for the community and students at large," Leonard said. "But do it in a responsible manner."

Franklin D. Jackson, chairman of the county liquor board, said voting to award the license to McManus, who owned five other bars and restaurants before The Barking Dog, was not difficult for him. Jackson said documents showed McManus did not have any violations on record for his bar in Bethesda.

"It appeared the applicant was fit and proper, he had significant experience in terms of running a restaurant," Jackson said. "And he's bringing a restaurant concept he's proven elsewhere."

Jackson said the space on Baltimore Avenue is the "largest retail commercial enterprise in College Park. (McManus has the ability) to keep it safe, (and) run such a space. Since he's already running a business that's extremely large, it just makes sense that he'd be able to transfer those skills over."

McManus said he hopes The Barking Dog could open in College Park by May 1.

- By Maryland Newsline's Alexander Pyles

Guantanamo Bay Detainee Plea Deal

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA - A military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay sentenced Noor Uthman Muhammed, a Sudanese native, to 14 years confinement on Friday, but a plea agreement suspended the sentence and he will serve 34 months in exchange for his future cooperation in other investigations. Noor, as he requested to be called in an earlier hearing, will not get credit for the nine years he already served in Guantanamo.

Noor pleaded guilty to conspiracy and materially supporting terrorism on Tuesday. Under the charges, he admitted to training terrorist recruits at Khaldan training camp in Afghanistan between 1996 and 2000.

A nine-member commission heard arguments in the sentencing phase without knowledge of the plea arrangement and sentenced Noor to the maximum punishment after more than five hours of deliberation.

Capital News Service was among more than two-dozen news organizations permitted to observe Noor's trial at the detention center in Cuba.

"Terrorists are not born, they are made," said Lt. Cmdr. Arthur Gaston in the opening remarks for the prosecution. "And Noor Uthman has made hundreds of them."

In his opening statement for the defense, lead counsel Howard Cabot, a civilian attorney from Phoenix countered: "I don't have a catchy phrase to start my remarks."

Though Noor made some mistakes, Cabot said, he has changed from the young man who left the Sudan for Pakistan 17 years ago.

The parties agreed to a stipulation of facts and offered no live testimony. The commission members - all military officers - saw statements of expected testimony and other documents including terrorism tactic manuals found in the safe house where Noor stayed just before his capture in 2002.

Defense counsel read an unsworn statement from Noor which detailed the alleged abuse he suffered in detention. "The worst time that I spent in Guantanamo Bay was while I was locked in Camp 5. I was there for two years in a cell by myself. I thought that I would lose my mind," the statement read.

In closing arguments, the defense again offered photographs of the defendant as a young man. They reassured commission members that Noor's family and tribe would provide support if he is permitted to return to Sudan.

Several non-governmental organizations sent representatives to observe the trial.

Laura Pitter, counterterrorism advisor for Human Rights Watch, questioned the proceedings saying, "There's a lot of pressure on these people to make a deal."

Noor is the sixth individual to be convicted through the military commissions proceedings. Capt. John Murphy, chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions, said he was pleased with the outcome, calling it, "another step in the justice we are achieving."

-By Capital News Service's Laura E. Lee

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