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In Brief

Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page B03


Volunteers Sought for Kids' Farm at Zoo

Friends of the National Zoo, the nonprofit support organization for the National Zoo, is recruiting volunteers for Kids' Farm, a new interactive exhibit for children ages 3 to 8. Volunteers answer visitors' questions and assist zoo staff members at the Caring Coral, where children help groom goats and donkeys.

Applicants should have an interest in agriculture and farming, an interest in working with children and good communication skills. Volunteers work three, three-hour shifts a month and attend a monthly meeting. The application deadline is March 25. Contact FONZ at 202-673-4874 or visit the FONZ Web site, www.fonz.org.

Emily Cagal was seen March 2.

_____About the National Zoo_____
In Mating Season, Web-Only Access (The Washington Post, Mar 10, 2005)
Metro (The Washington Post, Feb 18, 2005)
Report on Zoo Cites Progress And Problems (The Washington Post, Jan 20, 2005)
More About the Zoo
Giant Pandas Special Report


Port of Baltimore Departures Defended

Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan defended yesterday the hiring and firing practices in his department, particularly at the Port of Baltimore, and dismissed recent complaints of incompetence and cronyism as "misapprehensions" and "rumor."

"I think it's time to start talking up the port," said Flanagan, an appointee of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). He later called recent departures at the port "a normal transition."

Flanagan spoke before the Senate Budget and Tax Committee at a special hearing called to discuss staff changes at the port. Flanagan and Ehrlich have come under fire recently for the Feb. 24 resignation of James J. White, the port's widely respected executive director. Some Democratic lawmakers have pointed to White's departure as an example of interference by appointees with insufficient experience.

Several of the port's largest contractors testified yesterday that the port is functioning well and that while they regretted White's departure, they were optimistic about the future.

Insurer's Payout Decreased as Rates Rose

Maryland's largest medical malpractice insurer paid out far less money last year than in previous years, prompting some lawmakers yesterday to question the need for a large rate increase or for additional legal changes aimed at holding down doctors' costs.

The Medical Mutual Liability Insurance Society of Maryland, which covers more than three-quarters of the state's doctors in private practice, paid $78.5 million last year related to lawsuits and settlements, down from $93.2 million in 2003, according to figures presented at a Senate hearing.

The insurer was allowed a 33 percent increase in premiums.

Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery) noted that the decrease in payouts came before new legislation to protect doctors took effect. "The single piece of evidence we have about the so-called crisis is that the payouts have gone down," he said.

Missing Woman's Vehicle Found in NE

A vehicle belonging to a Rockville woman who has been missing since last week was found Tuesday evening in Northeast Washington, Montgomery County police said yesterday. Police said Emily Cagal's black, 2005 Acura MDX sport-utility vehicle was found about 5:30 p.m. in the 5600 block of Blaine Street NE.

Cagal, 24, of the 10200 block of Grosvenor Place, was last seen in Montgomery on March 2. She was supposed to visit friends in Florida on Friday but did not show up for her flight, police said. Officers believe her disappearance is suspicious based on information in her condominium, including the fact that she left behind her dog, police said.

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