THE REGION

Crypt of Vietnam Unknown to Stay Empty

The crypt at the Tomb of the Unknowns that once held the remains of an American serviceman from the Vietnam War will remain empty, possibly forever, the Pentagon announced yesterday.

It has been empty since last year, when DNA testing established that the remains within belonged to Air Force 1st Lt. Michael J. Blassie. The remains were returned to his family for reburial.

Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen has approved the recommendations of a Defense Department working group that the crypt remain empty "until such time as it can be unequivocally assured, in perpetuity, that the remains of the American serviceman would be forever unidentifiable," according to a statement released by the Pentagon.

No such candidate exists at present among recovered remains from Southeast Asia because of advances in scientific testing, officials said. "Whether there would be a candidate in the future is not known," said Rudy de Leon, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

Museum, Monument Receive Approvals

The Commission of Fine Arts gave final design approval yesterday to the National Museum of the American Indian and approved a site for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, each with a prominent location on or near the Mall.

The American Indian museum design needs approval from the National Capital Planning Commission at its July 1 meeting for groundbreaking in September to proceed. The museum, to be built at Third Street and Independence Avenue SW, is dedicated to the preservation, study and exhibition of historic and contemporary culture of Native Americans.

The siting of the King memorial had become controversial, with the arts commission supporting one site and the planning commission another. Yesterday, Reginald Griffith, executive director of the planning commission, testified that the panel would support a site that the arts commission favored on the Tidal Basin near the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial.

The planning commission is to review the site selection at its July meeting.

THE DISTRICT

Another Firm Boosts City's Credit Rating

The District's improving financial condition led a third Wall Street firm yesterday to boost its rating on the city's $3.2 billion in outstanding bonds. Fitch IBCA said the city's "dramatic turnaround" in financial operations, conservative revenue forecasting and prudent financial planning were key factors in its decision to increase the District's rating from "junk bond" status to the "BBB" investment grade level.

Earlier this spring, Standard & Poors Corp. and Moody's Investors Service also boosted the city's credit rating to the investment grade level, increases Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said would save the city millions of dollars in borrowing costs this year.

Step Taken to Revoke School Charter

The D.C. Board of Education has started the process of revoking the charter of the Young Technocrats Mathematics and Science Public Charter School in Northeast Washington after deciding that the school has serious problems and has not shown improvement during a month-long probation.

The school board voted unanimously on Wednesday night to take the first step toward revocation, restricting the use of city funds by the school and giving officials there 15 days to respond in writing and request a public hearing. The board then has another 30 days to review the situation and vote a second time on final revocation, according to board President Wilma R. Harvey (Ward 1).

The school's director, Myesha Washington, did not return calls.

Young Technocrats, one of 19 charter schools serving about 3,650 children in the District, offers grades pre-kindergarten through 12. It has struggled with financial and governance problems this past year, and was placed on probation last month after a monitoring team found that some employees were not being paid and strangers were roaming the halls.

MARYLAND

Ecuadoran Stowaways Captured

Five Ecuadorans who spent two weeks in a ship container were captured in Baltimore after emerging from the container thinking that they had arrived in New York City.

One man broke a leg and suffered internal injuries when he jumped off a stack of cargo containers at the Locust Point Marine Terminal on Wednesday. He was listed in critical condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. A hospital official said he was expected to remain there for several days.

Authorities arrested three other men just outside the terminal and one inside.

They probably will be deported soon because stowaways are not entitled to judicial hearings, said Barry Tang, head of investigations for the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Baltimore.

Four men in their twenties and a 16-year-old boy climbed inside the empty 40-foot steel box in Guayaquil early this month, federal officials said. The box had steel walls and support beams but a cloth roof that allowed air inside, and it was on the deck instead of the hull.

VIRGINIA

Tech Center for Low-Income Children

The Northern Virginia Technology Council and retired Gen. Colin L. Powell announced plans yesterday to open a technology center for low-income children who live in the Gum Springs area of Fairfax County.

The center, to open in September with 15 to 20 computers, will have trained instructors and is designed to serve children who do not have access to computers at home. It will be located in the Gum Springs Community Center.

Powell, chairman of America's Promise, announced the project to about 950 area business leaders at a breakfast sponsored by the technology council. He urged attendees to protect against what he called "digital apartheid"--the gap between those who have access to technology and training and those who do not.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "This is just stupid. It reflects the worst mismanagement and abuse of the past administrations." -- Interim D.C. City Manager Norman Dong on two blighted buildings that the city continues to rent for a total of $24,154 each month.