VIRGINIA

Toddler Who Fell 14 Stories Has Surgery

The 2-year-old Fairfax County girl who fell from a 14th-floor window was still in critical condition last evening after undergoing surgery at Inova Fairfax Hospital yesterday, a hospital official said.

Police said that the girl's fall Saturday was an accident and that no charges have been filed.

According to police, Eman Mageed was leaning backward against a screened portion of the window when she fell. Her mother was in the room with her but could not reach her in time.

Her 150-foot fall was onto a grassy area that was moist and relatively soft.

Fires Probed at Alexandria Police Building

Alexandria police are investigating as suspicious two fires that broke out in the city police headquarters early yesterday. Just before 4 a.m., officers in the building at 2003 Mill Rd. noticed smoke coming from the first-floor elevator.

Firefighters found that a fire in the building's second-floor hallway had been extinguished by the sprinkler system and that another fire, in a third-floor hallway, had extinguished itself.

No injuries were reported, and the emergency communication staff was not evacuated from the building, police said, adding that water caused extensive damage on the building's second floor.

"There is nothing in the area that would immediately jump out as a cause of fire," said Amy Bertsch, a police spokeswoman. "It's a secure building, and that the fire occurred at all is unusual."

Police to Train With Beanbag Shotguns

The Portsmouth Police Department has started training its uniformed officers to use shotguns with beanbag ammunition, a use-of-force option considered less lethal than conventional firepower.

"Ending a situation without injury to a suspect or officer and taking the individual into custody equates to a success," Police Chief Leonard G. Cooke said of the new policy.

Although beanbag ammunition and rubber bullets have been used by some police departments, they typically are limited to street supervisors or SWAT teams. Portsmouth is taking the policy a step further by training the entire force.

About 10 percent of officers have received the training since February, and an additional 10 percent will be trained each year until everyone has been certified, said a police spokeswoman, Sgt. Elizabeth Romero.

Dry Weather in Store for Southwestern Va.

The National Weather Service says another month of below-normal rainfall is in store for southwestern Virginia, where wells and springs have gone dry and cattle farmers are struggling to feed and water their livestock.

Because October is traditionally the driest month of the year, according to meteorologists, below-normal precipitation would ensure that drought conditions continue in the hard-hit area.

The long-range forecast for November and December, however, shows an expected increase, with either near-normal to slightly above-normal levels.

Several counties in southwestern Virginia have approved resolutions declaring a local drought emergency and are asking Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) to do the same.

Floyd Uncovers 4-Million-Year-Old Fossils

Although Hurricane Floyd delivered devastating damage to parts of southeastern Virginia, the storm also provided paleogeologists with a treasure trove of fossils at a Colonial Williamsburg golf course where a dam gave way.

Where the dam held a pond two weeks ago is a 30-foot-wide ditch cut by flood waters to reveal thousands of 4-million-year-old fossilized scallop shells, some with a width of eight inches.

The shells are of the ancient mollusk known as Chesapecten jeffersonius, Virginia's state fossil.

The fossils and layered sediments hold important clues to the Earth's geologic history, scientists say.

MARYLAND

Nun Says She'll Obey Ban on Gay Ministry

A Baltimore-based Catholic nun, ordered by the Vatican in July to cease her ministry to gay Catholics, said she will obey the order but "work within church structures" to have it reversed.

Sister Jeannine Gramick, 57, said in a statement that she believes it is "more beneficial to minister [to gay men and lesbians] with the blessing of the Church leadership than without it."

However, she called on fellow Catholics "to help me find creative, collaborative ways to lift the burden of this directive from my shoulders."

In a brief telephone interview, Gramick called the Vatican decision "unfair" and said she wants to "pursue the call I still feel to minister to lesbian and gay people."

Gramick and the Rev. Robert Nugent, also of Baltimore, were ordered to cease their ministry to gays. Nugent has said he would obey the Vatican.

Capitol Heights Man, 19, Fatally Shot

Prince George's police are investigating the fatal shooting early yesterday of a 19-year-old man in the 600 block of Elfin Avenue in Capitol Heights.

The victim, Henry Thomas Mack, lived a few streets away, in the 600 block of Larchmont Avenue.

Police said Mack was shot once in the upper body about 12:15 a.m. before he collapsed on the porch of a neighboring house. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

His body was taken to the medical examiner's office in Baltimore for an autopsy.

THE DISTRICT

Bicyclist Hit by Car Is in Serious Condition

A District bicyclist was listed in serious condition with head injuries after police said he was struck by a car early yesterday.

Jose Sorto, of the 2500 block of 17th Street NW, was riding his 10-speed bicycle north on 17th Street about 1:25 a.m., police said.

While he was crossing Columbia Road, he was struck by a dark-colored car, which was heading east on Columbia Road. Sorto was being treated at Washington Hospital Center.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"There are other problems in children's lives, and it's not the fact that their parents are working. It's the fact that their parents aren't communicating with them that they have the most problems with."

-- Barbara Schneider, co-director of the Alfred P. Sloan Center on Parents, Children and Work at the University of Chicago, on the results of a study of 1,200 high-schoolers.