University of Maryland Rallies Against Hate; Police Offer to Protect Students Who Received Threatening Mail

Police at the University of Maryland offered round-the-clock protection to some black student leaders at the College Park campus after they were sent racist threats of violence.

"No marches, no rally's, and no sit-in will prevent the coming of judgement day," read part of a misspelled letter sent to the Black Student Union. "You will all die by the hands of the judge and jury."

An estimated 2,000 people of many races attended a rally against bigotry, and campus officials are consulting with the FBI and U.S. Justice Department on the threats. State police are using forensic technology to try to trace the letter writer or writers.

"Your ignorant manifesto has only inspired the leadership on this campus," declared Student Council President Juliana Njoku, who received one of the letters.

Barry Wants Investigation of Failed Sting; FBI, Police Hoped to Catch Then-Mayor Taking Bribe

Newly unsealed court documents show that authorities continued to pursue Marion Barry even after he was reelected mayor following a stint in prison on a misdemeanor drug charge--itself the result of an FBI sting.

Court papers show that the FBI and D.C. police conducted an undercover probe last year in which they hoped to videotape Barry accepting a bribe. But the government's effort fell through on the eve of the planned sting when news was leaked to the media that a D.C. police lieutenant had been secretly arrested on corruption charges.

The lieutenant, Yong H. Ahn, had agreed to help authorities in the Barry probe and to have his wife try to buy a city job, according to court documents.

FBI officials declined to comment, but Barry wasn't nearly as reticent. He wants Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate the investigation.

"Even my enemies will concede that I don't have a reputation for taking money for providing services or help to people," he said. "If someone tried to do that, they either don't know me or are stupid."

Corralling Catholic Colleges; Bishops Seeking Tighter Controls

A move to tighten control over Catholic colleges puts Georgetown and Catholic universities, among other schools, "into a period of great uncertainty," a Georgetown professor says.

"We're on uncharted water in many ways," said the Rev. John P. Langan, who teaches Catholic social thought at Georgetown.

Meeting in Washington, America's Roman Catholic bishops voted overwhelmingly to end decades of academic independence at Catholic colleges. Under the proposal, which won't take effect until the Vatican approves it, Catholic theologians at the schools must be approved by their local bishops. And each college would be encouraged to hire faculty consisting mostly of "Catholics committed to the Church."

Most of the 235 colleges affected had opposed the measure, calling it a threat to academic freedom, but the president of Catholic University welcomed it.

"Institutions should be eager to be accountable, loyal and faithful," said the Rev. David M. O'Connell.

GOP Rejects Rust; Lawmaker Says Suburbs Lose

Northern Virginians may have to speak a little louder to be heard in the House of Delegates next term.

Del. John H. "Jack" Rust Jr., the Fairfax lawmaker who dropped out of the contest to be the GOP's first speaker of the house in 100 years, was later passed up in his quest to be the speaker's top deputy. Del. S. Vance Wilkins Jr., who hails from the Lynchburg area, will be speaker of the House, and H. Morgan Griffith, of Salem, was tapped to be majority leader.

Rust said the Republicans missed the chance to award a key position to a lawmaker who represents the suburbs, a key base of power.

"I think that ultimately the growth of the party is going to come out of the suburbs," he said. "We needed to have somebody who came out of that to have a voice that's going to resonate, and we don't have that."

Some Republicans, including Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (R-Fairfax), said that's just not so. "We've got plenty of people in leadership now," said Callahan, co-chairman of the Appropriations Committee. "Look at the committee leadership, which is where the action really is." Six committees are led by Northern Virginia Republicans.

Across the region

Soap Spike; Traffic Trials

* Childish prank or felony? Two Arlington fifth-graders have been charged with trying to kill or injure their teacher by putting soap in his drink. Michael D. Searles called the poison control center after he took a swig. But John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, who hired an attorney for the boys, said the charges show that "something's wrong with our society."

* Oh, the things you could do with 76 hours. Take a three-day weekend. Catch up on those projects you never quite got to. Hang out with family and friends. Or you could get stuck in traffic. A new study says the Washington area ranks second only to Los Angeles in the amount of time--an average of 76 hours a year--residents spend in slow-motion road warrior mode. But if misery loves company, there's some solace--San Francisco tied for the No. 2 spot.

* Investigators say a cigarette tossed onto or near a pile of trash ignited the fire that gutted four buildings in downtown Ellicott City. The 17-year-old restaurant cook who had discarded his cigarette helped evacuate two people before the fire spread. "The case is closed. It was a tragic accident," said Allen Gosnell, a spokesman for the state fire marshal's office.

* The D.C. government says it will be ready for the millennium. The city got off to a late start 17 months ago, but chief technology officer Suzanne J. Peck says the computers that help run critical services will be Y2K-compliant by mid-December. The price tag? About $150 million.

* Students are changing, and so must schools. Educators in Montgomery County, where students speak 120 languages, are going to hire a translation service so parents who speak Senegalese or Kurdish can communicate with teachers. It's part of Superintendent Jerry D. Weast's push to boost academic performance across racial and ethnic groups.

* Northern Virginia won't be off to the races any time soon. Colonial Downs and a Middleburg businessman both wanted to build a horse track in Prince William County. But the Virginia Racing Commission rejected the rival plans, doubting that either venture could attract enough fans. Virginia's only existing racecourse, east of Richmond, is already ailing.

* A coalition of doctors, health groups and drug companies is vowing to fight Gov. James S. Gilmore III's plan to use much of Virginia's share of the national tobacco settlement to build roads. Some lawmakers are sympathetic to the effort to divert at least some of the money to health care, but they say its chances are slim because leaders in both parties have backed Gilmore's plan.

* Metro will install rubber strips on the doors of subway cars to narrow the gap between trains and platforms. A D.C. man was dragged to his death in Silver Spring last week after his leg got caught by a train, but Metro officials said they had decided to add the strips months earlier. The project will take until 2002 to finish.

* In other Metro news, bus passengers will get able to get a ticket to ride. Customers now must shell out the $1.10 fare in exact cash. But by June 2002, bus fare boxes will accept the same fare cards used on the subway system. The new boxes also will accept Smartcards, the renewable plastic fare cards that are waved over a sensor.

* Shady Grove Adventist Hospital is on shaky ground. The agency that accredits hospitals across the country moved to revoke its approval of the Rockville facility, saying it has suffered from serious management problems. The hospital says it will appeal. If its accreditation is yanked, the hospital could lose its Medicare and Medicaid funding.

-- Erica Johnston