Indepence Day is a City holiday

— Department of Public Works Director Alfred H. Foxx reminds everyone that Independence Day, Thursday, July 4, 2013, is a City holiday. Department of Public Works’ offices and yards will be closed.

There will be no curbside waste or recycling collection on Independence Day.

Trash or recycling that is normally collected on Thursdays, will be collected on the make-up day, Saturday, July 6, 2013.

NO BULK TRASH collections are scheduled for that day.

All Citizen Convenience Centers WILL BE CLOSED, including Quarantine Road Landfill.

Mechanical street sweeping will not take place that day.

Citizens will be unable to access city offices for bill payments or permits. Some bills can be paid online. Please visit

Parking meters WILL NOT be in effect.

Public fireworks a safe option this 4th of July

With the arrival of summer, State Fire Marshal William E. Barnard is suggesting that Marylanders should attend public fireworks displays. “I would suggest the safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend one of the many public fireworks displays throughout the state.” stated Barnard. To help Marylanders enjoy a safer summer season, the State Fire Marshal offers several ways to enjoy fireworks while avoiding injury:

• Consider attending one of the numerous public fireworks displays scheduled throughout Maryland every year. Leave fireworks to the professionals. Check the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s website for listed public fireworks displays throughout the state.

For those individuals who insist on the use of consumer fireworks:

• Purchase the fireworks in the location where you intend to discharge them. Check with the local municipality to determine what fireworks are considered legal for use in that area.

• Read and follow label warnings and instructions.

• Do not allow small children to use fireworks.

• Do not consume alcoholic beverages while using fireworks.

• Have a bucket of water or hose available

• Fully extinguish remains of fireworks in water before disposal.

“Fireworks have been a long tradition of the 4th of July holiday celebrations. Please make safety your number one priority so everyone can enjoy the holiday season.” adds the State Fire Marshal. “By acting responsibly, we can help eliminate fireworks injuries in Maryland.”

Sex abuse lawsuits against ‘Elmo’ voice actor dismissed

— Three lawsuits alleging sex abuse by Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who gave Sesame Street’s Elmo his voice, were dismissed by a judge who ruled the accusers waited too long to sue.

Clash, who was suspended and later resigned from his Sesame Street after the first allegations surfaced in November, “can go about the business of reclaiming his personal life and his professional standing,” his lawyer told CNN Monday.

The lawyer who filed the lawsuits vowed to “appeal the decision and continue the fight to be a voice for victims.”

A clerk with Manhattan District court confirmed that three lawsuits filed against Clash were dismissed on grounds that the statute of limitations had run out.

Sesame Street had no immediate comment on the matter.

Each accuser, all adult men, said they were courted and seduced by Clash when they were underage teenagers.

Sheldon Stephens, now 24, was the first to the first to publicly claim he had a sexual relationship with Clash as a teen. Stephens called it an “adult consensual relationship” in November 2012, but filed a lawsuit in March 2013 alleging Clash threw a crystal meth sex party for him in 2004, when he was 16.

Clash, who had provided the high-pitched voice of the iconic furry red Elmo since 1984, acknowledged a relationship between “two consenting adults” when Stephens’ story initially emerged, but he said it otherwise was a “false and defamatory allegation.”

Stephens’ suit, which was filed in Pennsylvania, is still pending.

“We have moved to dismiss,” Berger said.

“I am a gay man,” Clash, 52, said in a statement in November. “I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter.”

Clash’s attorney, Michael Berger, said Monday his client “is pleased by the judge’s decision.”

“As we have maintained all along, our goal has been to put these spurious claims behind him, so that Kevin can go about the business of reclaiming his personal life and his professional standing, which was recently recognized once again by the three Emmys he won last month,” Berger said. “The judge’s decision to dismiss and close the three lawsuits is an important step in that direction. Kevin is looking forward to a time in the near future when he can tell his story free of innuendo and false claims.”

The accusers’ lawyer, Jeff Herman, called it “the first battle.”

“The statute of limitations is an arbitrary timeline that silences victims,” Herman said. “We believe that the victims in this case are within the statute of limitations, but this ruling highlights the need for a window in New York to allow victims to have their day in court.”

In November, Clash issued a written statement saying: “I am resigning from Sesame Workshop with a very heavy heart. I have loved every day of my 28 years working for this exceptional organization. Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer. I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately.”

Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, according to its website.

CNN’s Carolyn Sung contributed to this report.

AACC names new vice president of learning

— Anne Arundel Community College has named Karen L. Hays, Ph.D., as the college’s new Vice President for Learning, effective July 1, 2013. In that role, Hays will provide leadership for the Schools of Arts and Sciences; Business, Computing and Technical Studies; Health Professions, Wellness and Physical Education; Continuing and Professional Studies; the Center for Workforce Solutions; and the Virtual Campus. Reporting to the president, the vice president is responsible for instructional and curricular planning for both credit and continuing education programs, comprehensive program reviews, enrollment management, faculty hiring, promotion and tenure, budget management and strategic planning.

“AACC is fortunate to have had a very competitive pool of applicants for this position. I believe the high degree of interest is due to the stellar reputation the college has at the local, regional, state and national levels,” said Dr. Dawn Lindsay, AACC president.

“Dr. Hays comes to us with a proven background in understanding educational trends, providing leadership, shaping direction and creating strong partnerships with both internal and external constituent groups. Most importantly, her collaborative work style lends itself to working with our dedicated faculty in meeting the educational needs of the communities we serve. I believe she is the perfect fit for AACC and I am pleased to welcome her to our team.”

Hays comes to AACC from Middlesex County College where she has been the Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs since August 2005. Before taking that position, she served in various capacities at Miami Dade College, beginning in 1974, including teaching, counseling, human resources and student services before becoming Vice Provost for Education Policy, Programs and Analysis from 1999 to 2003 and then Dean of Academic Affairs from 2003 to 2005.

Hays says she looks forward to becoming a member of the AACC team and is eager to work alongside faculty, staff and students in support of the college’s vision and mission. AACC’s deep commitment to teaching and learning, as evidenced by its involvement with many national and local initiatives, is one of the reasons the college appealed to her.

“It is readily apparent that Anne Arundel Community College’s culture is one that values innovation and collaboration, both internally and externally, so that students have the opportunity to achieve their academic aspirations,” Hays said. “AACC is well known for its exemplary faculty and staff’s dedication to student learning and success, and I am extraordinarily grateful and excited to have the opportunity to join the AACC team.”

Hays began her college education at a community college, earning an Associate in Arts in General Studies from Miami Dade College. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from University of Florida, a Master’s of Education in Guidance and Counseling from Florida Atlantic University and her doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Texas at Austin.

In both Florida and New Jersey, Hays has been active in business, community and educational organizations. She received the Community College Spirit Award from the Council of County Colleges in June 2012, was selected as “Woman of The Year” in 2011 by the Central Jersey Women in Business and served as president of the Academic Officers Association of New Jersey from 2009-2010. She also has worked with the Institute for Community College Development and the National Council of Instructional Administrators.

Hays replaces Patricia A. Casey-Whiteman, who was serving as the interim Vice President for Learning during the vice presidential search in addition to handling her regular duties as Associate Vice President for Learning. She will continue in the associate vice president role.

Family of Nelson Mandela: His health is in God’s hands now

— The former wife of Nelson Mandela visited him Sunday in the hospital where the ailing anti-apartheid icon is clinging to life, the South African Press Association reported.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who was married to the former South African president from 1958 to 1996, described what it’s like to see her former husband of 38 years struggle to live in an exclusive interview with UK network ITV News.

“It is extremely painful to see him going through what he’s going through now. But it’s God’s wish,” Winnie Mandela told ITV.

Nelson Mandela, 94, remains in critical but stable condition at a Pretoria hospital where he has been battling a recurring lung infection since June 8.

His condition worsened last week with family members saying his health was “delicate” and “anything is imminent.” But daughter Zindzi Mandela told ITV between hospital visits that her father is alert and recognizes when a new person enters his hospital room.

“The one time he did speak was to tell my mom to sit down … because she was standing at the edge of his bed,” she said, laughing.

As his condition has deteriorated, South Africans have gathered outside the hospital, praying, lighting candles and leaving notes for the man they refer to as “tata,” the Xhosa word for father. Those tributes continued Sunday as a Salvation Army band played hymns near the hospital and well-wishers gathered to be close to their beloved Madiba.

Winnie Mandela shot down any suggestion that the family was discussing whether to end life support.

“It was nonsense to suggest we needed to take a decision to pull the tubes,” she told ITV.

Mandela became an international figure while enduring 27 years in prison for fighting against apartheid, the country’s system of racial segregation. He was elected the nation’s first black president in 1994, four years after he was freed. Even as he has faded from the spotlight, he remains popular and is considered a hero of democracy worldwide.

The front page of South Africa’s Sunday Times earlier this month carried the headline “It’s time to let him go,” quoting a longtime friend of the former president as saying the time may have come for South Africans to say goodbye.

“Once the family releases him, the people of South Africa will follow. We will say thank you, God, you have given us this man, and we will release him too,” friend Andrew Mlangeni told the paper.

But Zindzi Mandela told ITV that what happens now is out of the family’s hands.

“When people say the family must let go, and we say let go of what? In fact he is deciding what’s happening with himself. It’s between him and his maker. It’s not to do with us whatsoever,” she said.

CNN’s Faith Karimi and Samira Said contributed to this report.

J-Lo sings happy birthday wishes to repressive Asian leader

Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” on Saturday to a leader who has been characterized as one of the most repressive in the world.

“We wish you the very, very, happiest birthday,” Lopez said to Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, and then she sang to him at a huge celebration at a resort in the central Asian country.

The singer’s spokesman told CNN Sunday that “had there been knowledge of human right issues of any kind, Jennifer would not have attended.”

Human Rights Watch, in a report to the U.N. Human Rights Committee, recently called Turkmenistan “a country marked by extraordinary levels of repression.”

“Widely recognized as one of the most repressive in the world, the Turkmen government exercises total control of public life,” the report said.

Lopez spokesman Mark Young said she “and several other artists were invited and performed at a private corporate event for the China National Petroleum Corporation that was presented to their local executives in Turkmenistan.”

The event was not sponsored by the government and not political, he said.

“The China National Petroleum Corporation made a last-minute ‘birthday greeting’ request prior to Jennifer taking the stage,” he said.

“This was not stipulated in her contract, but she graciously obliged the China National Petroleum Corporation request.”

Once part of the Soviet Union until late 1991, Turkmenistan has abundant gas and oil resources. The CIA Factbook says the leadership uses its “gas and cotton export revenues to sustain its inefficient and highly corrupt economy.” The country borders Afghanistan and Iran.

Berdymukhamedov has been chief of state and head of government since February 2007, the CIA Factbook says.

CNN’s Denise Quan contributed to this report.