Needle Exchange Compromise Reached

A House-Senate committee approved a version of the District's budget yesterday that includes a compromise on a needle exchange program for drug addicts.

The committee, set up to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the city's fiscal 2000 budget, agreed to a Senate plan to allow privately funded clinics such as the Whitman-Walker Clinic to distribute needles to drug addicts without losing federal funds. Doctors say clean needles curb the spread of HIV and AIDS, but some House Republicans say the practice encourages drug abuse.

The committee kept a ban on the city's legalizing marijuana for medical reasons, even though 70 percent of residents approved the practice in a referendum.

The city's appropriations bill is scheduled to be voted on by the House today. GOP leaders attached a labor, education and health and human services spending bill to it, which President Clinton has said he would veto. If that happens, the D.C. bill would return to lawmakers, who could change the needle language--or anything else--again.

Creditors Give Hospital Another Extension

Creditors agreed yesterday to give Greater Southeast Community Hospital officials another extension--until Tuesday--to present a plan to sell the financially ailing facility and rescue it from liquidation. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge S. Martin Teel Jr. accepted the postponement after hospital lawyer David E. Rice reported that the search for the best deal isn't done yet.

Investment bankers and consultants are studying several proposals for the 280-bed facility on Southern Avenue, but yesterday none was willing to release details. The only bid that has been disclosed so far is a $24 million purchase offer by Doctors Community HealthCare Corp., of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Medicaid Program Director Selected

D.C. officials have chosen a Georgia health official to take charge of the city's Medicaid program. Herbert H. Weldon Jr., 45, who held a senior post in Georgia's $3.8 billion Medicaid agency, will replace Paul Offner on Monday.

Offner, a blunt-talking administrator who irked many hospital executives and some city officials as he brought D.C. Medicaid's runaway budget under control, is joining Georgetown University to research public policy. In the year just completed, D.C. Medicaid again came in under budget, at $844 million.


Montgomery Delays Student ID Policy

Montgomery County school officials have agreed to delay until next fall a requirement that all high school students wear photo identification badges.

The policy, which was to take effect in February, is designed to increase student security in an era of school shootings and violence. But after principals expressed concern over how to enforce the policy and students gathered an estimated 5,000 protest signatures, school officials decided not to rush and instead set up a work group.

The group will look at ways to ensure the badges will be worn by giving them practical uses, such as checking out books, buying lunch or swiping locked doors. The group also will come up with consequences for students who don't wear them.

10-Year-Old Dies in Rowing Machine

A 10-year-old Riverdale boy died after he became stuck in a piece of exercise equipment in his family's basement, Prince George's County police said yesterday.

Alan Craig Schmoldt, of the 6300 block of Kennedy Street, was playing alone in the basement about 8 p.m. Tuesday when his neck became wedged between the seat and bars of a rowing machine, police said. Investigators aren't sure if he became trapped when he was playing on the machine or if it fell on him as he was trying to move it, police said.

The boy was found by his mother and sister after they heard noises in the basement, police said. The mother, whose name was not released by police, called 911 and performed CPR as she waited for paramedics to arrive. The boy was pronounced dead at Prince George's Hospital Center shortly afterward, police said.


National Guard Gets Bosnia Assignment

The Army has selected a National Guard division headquartered at Fort Belvoir to command the NATO stabilization force in Bosnia in 2001, officials said yesterday.

The planned six-month rotation in October 2001 would be the first overseas deployment by the 29th Infantry Division headquarters since World War II, when the division landed at Normandy. Company-size elements of the division have deployed to Bosnia during the last several years, while about 150 members of the division's military intelligence battalion based in Laurel are expected to deploy there next spring.

The deployment in 2001 would probably involve about 400 soldiers from the 29th's headquarters at Fort Belvoir and a battalion-size task force of about 500 infantry soldiers from the division, the bulk of which is based in Maryland and Virginia, the division commander, Brig. Gen. Steven Blum, said at a news conference yesterday.

The announcement reflects an attempt by the Army to rely more on National Guard units for peacekeeping missions, officials said.


Security Tightened After Threat to School

Fairfax County police and school officials said they have tightened security at Woodson High School after an online threat was made against the school last week.

Officials said the threat appeared in an online instant message. Instant messaging allows individuals to have real-time online discussions. Officials declined to provide details, saying that it would jeopardize their investigation.

Woodson Principal Robert J. Elliott sent a letter to parents last Thursday informing them of the incident and asking anyone with information to contact police. Classes have continued as normal.


"Everything we've done in this campaign is unique in the advertising world. We have yet to find a product or brand that wants to sell itself to every single adult in America other than the census."

--Terry Dukes, an advertising executive, on a multicultural campaign to reverse a long-standing trend by persuading people to fill out and return their census forms.

--Page A17