DAYBREAK DAILY: Flags on Mall honor war vets who committed suicide

ABC7 WEATHER: Overcast with highs near 60.

NEWSTALK: Among today’s topics (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8) -- Our D.C. mayoral candidate interview series concludes with Muriel Bowser.

‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – The latest on the myriad events surrounding the missing Relisha Rudd; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

HONORING VETERANS: Of those who committed suicide, per the New York Times, “Volunteers in dark green hooded sweatshirts spread out across the National Mall on Thursday, planting 1,892 small American flags in the grass between the Washington Monument and the Capitol. Each flag represented a veteran who had committed suicide since Jan. 1, a figure that amounts to 22 deaths each day.

“Civilians stood among the waving flags in solidarity with veterans like Michael Blazer, a former sergeant in the Army who had a friend commit suicide when he got back from Afghanistan. “He shot himself in the same room as me and a friend of mine,” Blazer said. “I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD because of that, so a lot of these issues are what I’ve personally been dealing with. But above and beyond, I’m out here in memory of him.”

“The event was part of an awareness campaign mounted by members of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, an advocacy group focused on issues affecting the nation’s newest veterans. They are in Washington this week as part of their leadership development program, Storm the Hill, and to support the introduction of legislation aimed at preventing suicides and providing more mental health resources for service members home from combat.”

DISCRIMINATION BANNED: Of transgender people, per the Baltimore Sun, “Legislation barring discrimination against transgender people passed the General Assembly on Thursday, as the House of Delegates approved the bill after an impassioned debate. The vote sends the measure to Gov. Martin O'Malley, who said he will sign it.

“The bill, approved by the House 82-57, prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in housing and employment, in obtaining credit and in access to public accommodations. Five Maryland localities, including Baltimore City and Baltimore and Howard counties, have similar laws. But the measure enacted Thursday provides statewide legal protection for an estimated tens of thousands of Marylanders who say they often experience harassment, discrimination and even assaults.”

RELISHA RUDD: The latest, per WJLA--ABC7, “Police and FBI agents, along with their canines, spent Wednesday here in Kenilworth Park to search for the remains of missing eight-year-old Relisha Rudd.

“They don’t know whether the child is dead, but as Police Chief Lanier put it: "The amount of time she has been missing and the circumstances that we have make us more uncomfortable." At an earlier news conference, Lanier said the last confirmed sighting of the child was when she was seen with Tatum on March 1. Then, several suspicious things happened.”

VINCE GRAY: In something of a bind, per the Washington Post, “. . .As he enters the final weekend before the Democratic mayoral primary, with D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser pulling even in polling, Gray is staking his political future on the black neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River where he won overwhelming support four years ago. And he is rebutting with renewed vigor any questions about his ethics.

“The strategy offers a stark contrast to the promise of racial unity he evoked four years ago with his “One City” slogan. On most days, Gray’s schedule is packed with appearances in east-of-the-river Wards 7 and 8, while his campaign produces radio ads aimed at black audiences and promotes an endorsement from Marion Barry, who is popular among African American voters.”

CREIGH DEEDS: Damning report, per the Roanoke Times, “A community mental health screener told state investigators that he contacted 10 facilities on Nov. 18 in an effort to find a psychiatric bed for Austin “Gus” Deeds, who was being held under an emergency custody order in Bath County. The 24-year-old son of state Sen. Creigh Deeds was released by Bath County authorities after six hours in emergency custody because mental health workers could not find an available psychiatric bed in the region. The following morning, Gus Deeds stabbed his father multiple times and then shot himself to death at the senator’s Millboro home.

“In a long-awaited report released Thursday, the state Office of Inspector General said it found no evidence that three of the 10 facilities identified by a worker with Rockbridge Area Community Services actually had been contacted. Two of those three facilities told investigators that they had beds available on the day that Gus Deeds was released. The inspector general also found that a pre-admission screening report on Gus Deeds “did not include clinically significant information that was reportedly provided by a family member” a little more than an hour before Deeds was released from emergency custody. Faxes that were intended to be sent to Rockingham Memorial Hospital as part of the attempt to find a bed for Deeds were sent to the wrong number, according to the report.”

MCAULLIFE RESPONDS: Of a PAC, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Thursday that a recent email solicitation for his newly formed political action committee — which promised access to the governor, his family and policy experts in exchange for an escalating scale of donations — was sent out without his review or approval. “They put out a piece of paper I had never seen or approved,” McAuliffe told listeners on his call-in show on WRVA in Richmond, responding to a question about the recent solicitation by the governor’s Common Good Virginia PAC.

“The solicitation said that for a $100,000 donation, a donor could have a private dinner with the governor and first lady, sit down at a roundtable discussion with the governor and have monthly meetings with policy experts. PACs and their fundraising appeals are nothing new to Virginia politics or governors, who constantly hold or attend events where levels of access come with an escalating price. But Republican critics of McAuliffe said the solicitation goes a bit further in offering more intimate interaction with decision makers that falls outside the traditional grin-and-greet nature of most political events.”

BRIDGEGATE: And another denial, per The Hill, “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) denied Thursday that he “inspired” the George Washington Bridge scandal that created a traffic jam on the world’s busiest bridge last September. He made the comment in his first TV interview since the scandal unraveled in January, which aired on ABC’s “World News With Diane Sawyer” Thursday evening. “I spent a lot of time the last 11 weeks thinking about what did I do if I did anything to contribute to this,” Christie said. “I don’t believe that I did.”

“Sawyer asked Christie if it “defies credulity” that his staffers and appointees shut down the bridge because of a personal annoyance. “When things were first reported, I said this couldn’t possibly be true because who would do something like that? Sometimes people do inextricably stupid things,” Christie said. “And so that’s what makes it so hard then as the guy in charge because none of it made any sense to him. And to some extent, still does not.”

POLITICO PLAY: “President Barack Obama sat opposite Pope Francis at his spare desk adorned with a crucifix, looking very much like the visitor he was. The balance of power — an intangible element that the president is accustomed to controlling — appeared subtly tipped in the pontiff’s favor.

“Obama looked reserved, even a bit nervous, repeatedly expressing his appreciation to the 77-year-old pontiff, who broke into a fatherly smile in return. “It’s a great honor. I’m a great admirer,” Obama said. “Thank you so much for receiving me.”

ANOTHER FACE: For mayor, per City Paper, “Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal only has one day left as the District's sole restaurateur-turned-political candidate. Khalid Pitts, who owns Logan Circle's Cork Wine Bar and Cork Market and Tasting Room with his wife, tells LL that he'll file papers Friday to run as an independent in November's at-large election.

“Pitts, 46, also works as a campaign director for the Service Employees International Union and as the treasurer for the District's Health Benefit Exchange Authority. With the eventual Democratic nominee expected to win one of the two at-large seats available in the general election, he'll be competing with an increasingly busy field for the set-aside non-majority-party seat David Catania is leaving to run for mayor.”

TOUGH TALK: But realistic?, per Gazette.Net, “House of Cards” might think twice before leaving Maryland. The state could soon have the power to take the show’s property through eminent domain.

“At the close of a lengthy budget debate Thursday, Del. C. William Frick (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda proposed the state be able to use its power of eminent domain if a film production company that has claimed more than $10 million in tax credits decides to pack up shop and leave the state.”

TOUGH TALK II: Of pointed rhetoric, per the Frederick News-Post, “Maryland Sen. David Brinkley blasted his Republican rival Thursday for being all talk when it comes to the state budget. With the pointed comments made after the House of Delegates voted on the budget, Brinkley continued his back-and-forth with Delegate Michael Hough over which lawmaker delivers rhetoric rather than action.

“Brinkley's vote for the budget bill earlier this month drew sharp criticism from Hough, who is challenging the incumbent senator in District 4. Hough said Brinkley's support for the fiscal plan shows he falls in line behind state Democrats instead of taking a stand to resist spending increases. On Thursday, Hough voted against the budget bill, and Brinkley's press release faulted the delegate for criticizing from the sidelines without attempting to strengthen the proposal.”

METRO: Of fare hikes, per DCist, “A WMATA committee voted unanimously to adopt a fiscal year 2015 budget that includes a fare hike for bus and rail riders, a budget. . .the full board approved.

“In July, the price of a bus ride will increase from $1.60 to $1.75 for people who use SmarTrip. For people who use cash, the trip will actually become cheaper, falling from $1.80 to $1.75. In an online survey conducted during the budget process, the majority of riders said SmarTrip users should receive a discount on the bus. Metro says that SmarTrip is used for more than 90 percent of bus trips.”

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “If someone stopped breathing, would you know what to do? The Clay Foundation is offering to help, providing free "CPR parties" for anyone across the country. They cover the cost of the instructor to teach infant, child, and adult CPR – as well as how to use an automated external defibrillator, or AED.”

--Skip Wood