THE REGION

Pelican Spotted Near Wilson Bridge

An American white pelican--a bird rarely seen in this area--has been spotted at various places along the Potomac River near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge every day for more than a week.

The bird has been seen from the Blue Plains sewage plant in the District, from the Maryland shoreline at Fox Ferry Point and from the Belle Haven Marina in Virginia, among other places. It was first spotted Aug. 17, according to a news release from the Maryland Ornithological Society.

White pelicans nest in Canada during the summer and spend the winter along the Gulf Coast or in California. The species has never before been officially recorded in the District of Columbia. Local birders believe the pelican is lost and will fly out of town when the weather cools.

The bird is about five feet long and is white except for black wingtips, an orange bill and orange legs.

VIRGINIA

Injunction Against Abortion Law

A federal judge who declared Virginia's law banning one type of late-term abortion unconstitutional ruled yesterday that a permanent injunction against the law should remain in effect pending appeal.

Lawyers for Attorney General Mark L. Earley (R) had asked U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne to allow them to enforce the ban on the procedure that abortion opponents refer to as "partial-birth abortion" while the law's constitutionality is considered by an appeals court. Last month, Payne ruled the law unconstitutional and blocked its enforcement. The state is appealing Payne's ruling that the law is unconstitutional.

U-Va. Abandons Plans for Qatari Campus

The University of Virginia has abandoned plans to build a branch campus in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar.

In a letter to Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R), university President John T. Casteen III wrote that "we have not found a model that meets Qatar's needs while also letting us remain strictly faithful to our own standards."

U-Va. first broached the idea of opening a coeducational campus in Qatar last summer. It was to be a 1,000-student undergraduate campus in the capital of Doha that would be funded by the Qatari royal family and Qatari corporations. Before giving their approval to go forward with the plan, however, members of the Virginia General Assembly said they wanted to make sure that women and non-Arab students would not be discriminated against on the campus.

University spokeswoman Carol Wood said the college stopped plans for the Qatari campus for "purely administrative and accreditation issues."

Diversion of Tobacco Money Opposed

A state medical organization is urging Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) not to use money from the state's share of the tobacco settlement to pay for transportation projects.

The Medical Society of Virginia said Virginia's tobacco settlement money was intended to pay for future health care needs caused by smoking and should not be diverted to transportation projects. The society represents 7,000 Virginia doctors.

Gilmore hinted Monday that he was considering using tobacco money to help unclog northern Virginia's congested highways. He said he will announce details of his plan Tuesday.

MARYLAND

Parents Enlisted in Reading Program

School officials are enlisting the aid of parents as part of a broad initiative to improve reading skills among schoolchildren statewide, the state's top educators announced.

The Family Reading Plan will provide parents with specific reading activities they can do at home to improve their child's reading skills.

"It is the beginning of saying that parents and adults are partners with us in the teaching of reading," state Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick said.

All 24 Maryland school systems will select one elementary school each for the new program this fall. Program materials also will be available on the Maryland Department of Education's Web site for other schools to join on their own.

State educators hope to have the plan in place in all elementary schools by fall 2000.

Carroll Schools Consider Gun Program

School officials in Carroll County are considering whether to teach students gun safety under a program sponsored by the National Rifle Association.

NRA officials presented ideas Tuesday on how to incorporate the Eddie Eagle Gun Safety class into the county school curriculum.

Kathy Cassidy, manager of the Eddie Eagle program, said the program would be geared to children in kindergarten through sixth grade.

The presentation would involve a gun safety video, instructional materials and an Eddie Eagle mascot to push home the message of gun safety.

Managed-Care Claim Denials Increase

Managed-care organizations denied $74 million in hospital claims last year, up more than 50 percent from the previous year, according to a study by the Maryland Hospital Association.

Linda Bolton, the association's vice president for managed care and health systems integration, said that her group hopes to work with health maintenance organizations to find strategies to reduce the number of claim denials.

The study showed that $47 million in health insurance claims were rejected in 1997, up from $17 million in 1996. Bolton said the hospital association has no clear picture on how many people have had claims denied. The association represents hospitals across the state.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"As far as I understand, this type of ride is supposed to be safe in all aspects. When you have someone who is locked into a roller coaster ride that is supposed to have a number of safety devices on it, it is not acceptable that you go flying out for any reason."

-- Gary A. Tomei, an attorney for the family of Timothy Fan, who fell to his death Monday from a roller coaster at Paramount's Kings Dominion amusement park.