MARYLAND

Curran Backs Takoma Park Gun Ban Idea

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. (D) said yesterday that he supports the efforts of some Takoma Park residents to ban the sale, ownership and possession of handguns within their city limits.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with allowing a subdivision self-determination on issues of public safety," said Curran, who last week announced his goal of a statewide ban on handguns. "They're the residents who live there and play there. It's their safety."

There's just one problem. Maryland law prohibits cities and counties from regulating guns without state consent. Some Takoma Park residents hope to get an exemption from that law under a provision that allows limiting or banning guns 100 yards from a place of public assembly. They argue the exemption encompasses roads and sidewalks, although Curran said a judge would have to decide.

A Marriage Made in Hospital

Richard Atwell won't be carrying his new bride, Kate Dimond, across the threshold any time soon.

The couple was married yesterday in the outpatient surgery center of Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, where the groom was admitted after falling from a tree stand while hunting and severely injuring his back last week, as his wedding day approached.

When Atwell, 34, told his fiancee, 30, what had happened, there were tears and frustration, followed by a show-must-go-on resolve.

"I still feel wonderful about [the wedding]," said Atwell, whose aches and pains were numbed by painkillers. "This is just one of those things that happens." He expects to leave the hospital tomorrow.

Federal Funds Marked for Assateague Lab

U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) yesterday announced $1.5 million in federal funding to help build a research lab on Assateague Island, where researchers will study ways to protect the Atlantic shoreline.

Speaking at Assateague Island National Seashore, a windswept barrier island that is part of the National Park Service, Sarbanes said the Coastal Ecology Teaching and Research Laboratory also will be used to attract minority students to careers in natural resource management.

Construction on the lab is expected to begin next year with a total price tag of $3 million. State funds will pay for the balance of the project.

VIRGINIA

Insurer Cuts Ties With Mental Hospital

The state's largest private health insurer stopped paying for members of its health plan to be treated at a psychiatric hospital where a 65-year-old schizophrenic patient hanged himself in January.

Trigon Blue Cross Blue Shield severed its dealings with Charter Westbrook Hospital on Friday, a day after the state announced plans to revoke the Richmond hospital's license and federal officials announced they will stop Medicare and Medicaid funding.

The sanctions were in response to an independent investigator's report that the hospital could have saved the patient, who was a known suicide risk.

THE DISTRICT

Second Man Sentenced in 1997 Slaying

A D.C. Superior Court judge has sentenced a second man to life in prison without parole for the murder of Jesse L. Baker Sr., a landlord and former CIA polygraph examiner who was shot to death in March 1997 during an attempted robbery.

Steven R. Crockett, 25, was sentenced Friday for his role in the death of Baker, 56, a father of two. According to prosecutors, Crockett and Denon Kitt accosted Baker as he left a building he owned at 3751 First St. SE. They knew from a friend that he sometimes carried rent money, but Baker had left his wallet and money at home.

The two men forced Baker into the back seat of his car and drove away. They demanded his home address, in hopes of searching there for cash, but Baker refused. Investigators believe Kitt fired the two fatal shots with Crockett's gun.

Crockett, convicted of first-degree murder by a D.C. jury, is awaiting trial in the May 1998 slaying of Gregory McFayden. Kitt was sentenced by another judge to 50 years to life in prison.

Strike Resolved, Hospital Back to Normal

Howard University Hospital returned to its routine yesterday after a day-long contract dispute Friday with its 434-member nursing staff, said Evelyn Sommers, executive director of the D.C. Nurses Association.

Nurses picketed the hospital most of Friday before winning concessions from administrators--a pay raise, reduced forced overtime and a larger say in staffing. Volunteers and contract nurses worked the night shift Friday, and regular assignments resumed yesterday, Sommers said. A hospital spokeswoman could not be reached for comment.

THE REGION

U.N. Association Honors Education Efforts

The United Nations Association of the National Capital Area yesterday honored 16 schools and other organizations that teach or practice peaceful conflict resolution.

Recipients of the association's first Blue Ribbon Awards included Jefferson Junior High School in Southwest Washington, where seventh- and eighth-graders learn to mediate disputes between fellow students, and the International United Black Fund's "I Love Life Project," an anti-violence essay, art and speaking competition for D.C. students.

Other educational programs honored include the Fairfax Model U.N. Conference, a biannual event at Fairfax High School; the Model U.N. Partnership, in which State Department officials teach classes at Cardozo, Ballou, Eastern and Washington Math, Science and Technology high schools; and the Embassy Adoption Program, which pairs 50 D.C. elementary schools with foreign embassies.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"It's really putting a priority on those first five years and not basically wasting them. It's not enough just to make sure your child is taken care of."

-- Bruce Karpas, chief executive of Creme de la Creme, a day-care company that offers tennis lessons, a TV studio, children's barbershop, language classes, computer training, classical music and other activities for preschoolers.