DAYBREAK DAILY: Treating mental illness a priority for Maryland

ABC7 WEATHER: Partly sunny with highs near 70.

‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – Virginia to conduct state-wide tornado drill at 9:45 a.m.; Mayor Gray to deliver State of the City address amid looming scandal; the latest on the missing Malaysia Airlines plane; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

MARYLAND AND MENTAL HEALTH: Of forced treatment, per the Baltimore Sun, “Maryland lawmakers are moving to make it easier to medicate mental hospital patients against their will, while examining the idea of court-ordered therapy for mentally ill people who aren't hospitalized. The legislation is based partly on recommendations from a panel convened by Gov. Martin O'Malley after the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. That case prompted a national debate about the adequacy of care for mentally ill Americans.

"But while some mental health advocates have long sought additional tools to better manage treatment — for the sake of the patient and public safety — the proposals have created a rift in the health care community. Some argue such measures are inhumane and unconstitutional. . .The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene supports legislation that would expand the circumstances under which a doctor could medicate mental health patients without their consent. In those cases, as a check and balance, a review must be done by a clinical panel. Health officials argue that the longer patients go without treatment, the worse their illness and chances for recovery become.”

JEFF THOMPSON: He sings, per City Paper, “Jeff Thompson pulled it off, until he didn't. The man who was once one of the biggest financiers in District politics laid it all out in court Monday while he pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges: the $278,000 he spent trying to elect Linda Cropp mayor in 2006, the $668,000 he spent backing Vince Gray four years later, the tens of thousands in favors he says he did for the mayor, the hundreds of thousands more in other illicit campaigns and straw donations, and the tax fraud to cover up those straw donations. And that's not even everything. "What you learned about today is only the tip of the iceberg," Machen said this afternoon after Thompson's plea hearing.

“It's a hell of a tip. Thompson, the former owner of a well-connected Medicaid contractor and part owner in an accounting firm, pleaded guilty today to organizing multiple shadow campaigns and straw donation schemes that Machen said amounted to "a veil of corruption over the District of Columbia." With the exception of former Councilmember Michael A. Brown, none of the politicians Machen said benefited from Thompson's illegal actions have been charged with any crimes.

“The most immediate impact in the Wilson Building will likely be felt in the mayor's race, with Thompson's claims in open court and in filings contradicting Gray's claims that he didn't know about the illicit effort to get him into the mayoral suite. While Gray claimed that Thompson's charges were "lies" in an interview with the Washington Post, Thompson's statement of offense features Gray arriving for an August 2010 meeting to personally deliver a $425,000 budget for how to spend Thompson's money on a get-out-the-vote effort.”

MEANWHILE: Gray rivals pounce, per City Paper, “Ward 2 D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans had his strongest words yet for friend and mayoral rival Vince Gray over Jeff Thompson's plea deal, saying Gray should "do what's in the best interest of the city" if he's charged with a crime. "The allegations against the Mayor are extremely serious; however, it is critical that this matter not cast a pall over our city and the progress we have made," Evans said in a statement. "If the allegations are true, and if the Mayor is charged, I believe he should do what's in the best interest of the city."

“LL's guessing that Evans is envisioning the best interest of the city as Gray dropping out if he's charged, though Evans' campaign didn't respond to requests to clarify what Evans meant. In interviews Monday, Gray insisted that Thompson's claims that Gray took a role in requesting the 2010 shadow campaign to get him elected are "lies." But Gray's rivals weren't sold, with most candidates (though not fellow shadow-campaign beneficiary Vincent Orange) putting out statements about the plea.”

BOB MCDONNELL: Of a defense, per the Washington Post, “The mudslinging started the day Robert F. McDonnell was indicted, when attorneys for the former Virginia governor compared prosecutors to the Roman emperor Caligula, trying to imprison people “for violating laws written in tiny lettering on a pillar too high to see.” In filings since, McDonnell’s attorneys have accused prosecutors of having a “seriously flawed understanding of federal law,” suggested that they want to “unilaterally decide what evidence the defense, the judge, and the jury get to hear” and even sarcastically mentioned speed-reader Evelyn Wood in a dispute about documents.

“Legal experts say the aggressive — even rancorous — motions are an effort to educate the judge and the public about McDonnell’s view of the corruption charges against him. Most of the defense requests — which, among other things, allege problems with the evidence that prosecutors have turned over and seek more specificity about the charges — are likely to be rejected, legal experts say.”

GAY MARRIAGE: Let the legal machinery begin, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “A federal appeals court will consider both challenges to Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage together. Plaintiffs in a Harrisonburg challenge to the state’s ban on same-sex marriage can intervene in the challenge pending in Norfolk, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

“The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also put the case on the fast track, calling for briefs to be filed by March 28, with argument set for May 12-15. Last month, a federal judge in Norfolk struck down the 2006 amendment to the state Constitution that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. In that case, Bostic v Rainey, U.S. District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen found the amendment to be in violation of the United States Constitution but stayed her ruling pending a decision by the appeals court.”

MEDICAID EXPANSION: McAuliffe not slowing down, per the Virginian-Pilot, “Gov. Terry McAuliffe turned up the heat on the General Assembly to expand Medicaid coverage Monday, telling a gathering of health care officials "hospitals will close and people will die" if lawmakers fail to act. "Over 400,000 individuals are going to the ER for care, and somebody is going to pay for that," McAuliffe said during a meeting at Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center. "This could all be covered by closing the funding gap."

“He urged doctors and hospital administers to press state legislators to adopt "Marketplace Virginia," a state offshoot of the federal Affordable Care Act, designed to extend coverage to 250,000 low-income Virginians.By doing so, he said, the state would stand to collect more than $1 billion a year from the federal government through 2022 - money collected from Virginia taxpayers that otherwise will be spent in other states. Without it, McAuliffe said, "hospitals will close and people will die. There's no more powerful argument than that."

UKRAINE: And high finance, per the New York Times, “When Vladimir V. Putin returned to the Russian presidency in 2012, one of the first messages he sent to his political elite, many of them heads of banks and large corporations, was that the times had changed: Owning assets outside Russia makes you too vulnerable to moves by foreign governments, he told them. It is time to bring your wealth home. Nearly two years later, those words seem almost prophetic. After a week of escalating tensions between Russia and the United States, it has become clear that the conflict over Ukraine will move to the battlefield of finance. Those same business titans are now contemplating the damage that the crisis could inflict on Russia’s economy.

“Twenty years into the project of integrating Russia into Western institutions, they now face the prospect that the process could slow, or even reverse. Financial sanctions, which the United States and the European Union have suggested they will impose if the conflict escalates, are intended to test the cohesion of the political system. Mr. Putin demands complete loyalty from those who are allowed to lead Russia’s business empires, and he has made it clear that he will punish those who undermine him. His tough stance in Crimea, meanwhile, has been enthusiastically welcomed by the general public, including, insiders say, many of those in business. No one is breaking ranks.”

MEANWHILE: Crafting a plan, per The Hill, “The White House and Congress are seeking a unified front against the Russian invasion in Crimea, but legislation to help Ukraine faces obstacles. Congress is scheduled to be on recess next week, and failing to pass a relief package before lawmakers head out of town would be an embarrassing setback for President Obama as well as GOP and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill. It could also lead the parties to devolve into finger-pointing, which would weaken U.S. leverage.

“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled a business meeting Tuesday in hopes of marking up a bipartisan compromise. But on Monday evening, it was unclear whether the panel was ready to move a bill. The Obama administration has insisted on attaching International Monetary Fund (IMF) reforms to the Ukrainian aid package. Republicans, however, have balked at the proposal.”

MALAYSIA AIRLINES PLANE: Still missing, per the Los Angeles Times, “Despite a wealth of technology, crews trying to find the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner must cover a large swath of the South China Sea that varies widely in depth and is subject to fast-moving currents that could carry debris more than 50 miles a day, experts say. The search for the missing Boeing 777 off the southern coast of Vietnam had yielded nothing by early Tuesday. Malaysian and Vietnamese authorities said they had yet to find anything linked to the airliner that carried 239 passengers and crew, and that the search area was being expanded and the operation "intensified."

“Experts said wreckage could be sitting in water as shallow as 300 feet or as deep as 3,000 feet or more, where the ocean is pitch-black and the temperature is as low as 40 degrees. GPS signals are not effective in salt water and acoustic signals sent from the plane's emergency beacon could be faint. "Shallow doesn't necessarily mean easy," said David Gallo, who managed search expeditions for Air France Flight 447 that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009.”

POLITICO PLAY: “First, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden popped up in Hong Kong. Then, Russia. By Monday, the fugitive from justice, a man regularly accused of treason, was in Austin, Texas, hitting the nation’s hottest tech festival — via the Web, of course.

“They’re setting fire to the future of the Internet,” Snowden warned darkly, in jerky video relayed through a series of proxies from an undisclosed location in Russia. With an image of the U.S. Constitution projected behind him, he urged the tech-savvy SXSW attendees to ride to the rescue against rampant surveillance by the NSA and others. “The people who are in this room, now, you guys are all the firefighters, and we need you to help fight this,” he said, sounding every bit the geek as he described various encryption applications he believes should get wider use.”

HOPING FOR CASH: False hope?, per Gazette.Net, “Despite fading hopes among state lawmakers for its passage, the president of the Montgomery County Council hasn’t given up on the idea of getting a bill that would provide more state money to ease crowding in the county’s schools. “Stranger things have happened in Annapolis,” Council President Craig L. Rice (D- Dist. 2) of Germantown said Monday.

“Rice said he’s had several conversations with Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) about school funding and asked Brown to take a more visible role on the issue. Montgomery’s entire delegation to the General Assembly has backed legislation that would provide up to $20 million a year outside of the normal capital budget process for school systems with 100,000 or more students and a triple-A bond rating.”

I-70: Of improvements, per the Frederick News-Post, “Highway officials are considering options for the next phase of improvements to I-70. The State Highway Administration shared suggestions to improve traffic flow along the I-70 corridor in Frederick with transportation advocates at Monday's Frederick Area Committee for Transportation meeting.

“The suggestions will be considered as the SHA refines its plan for the next phase of improvements to I-70, which was recently widened to allow for greater traffic volume. To find the areas most in need of an upgrade, the SHA created a traffic model for the stretch of I-70 from Bowmans Farm Road west to Mount Phillip Road, traffic engineer Carole Delion said.”

SNIP, SNIP: So long, Pete, per ARLnow, “Westover’s Pete’s Barber Shop is no longer home to its namesake now that Peter Xereas has retired. Xereas, a Greek immigrant, had owned the barber shop at 5847 Washington Blvd since 1968 when he officially retired Feb. 28. Pete’s was named the best barber shop in Arlington for 2013 by the readers of Arlington Magazine.

“Chris Hewitt, who had worked under Xereas for about five years, has taken over the lease and operation along with his wife, Elaine Prettyman, who also works at the shop. “He decided to hang up the clippers,” Hewitt told while attending to a customer’s hair. “He’s still in good health, and he said he wants to enjoy it.”

SPORTS, BRIEFLY: Wizards lose 99-90 against Miami; Caps lose 3-2 against Pittsburgh.

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “Have you ever opened up your phone bill to find an astronomical number waiting for you? A T-Mobile customer was charged $14,400 in roaming fees for her stolen cell phone. Despite her explanation, the company insisted she pay up. So she called us -- 7 On Your Side. See how we helped her.”

NEWSTALK: Among today’s guests (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8) is legal analyst A. Scott Bolden, who will be asked about the Jeff Thompson plea deal and Mayor Gray’s denial of wrongdoing.

--Skip Wood

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