THE REGION

Hsing-Hsing to Be Part of Broader Exhibit

Hsing-Hsing, the last of the National Zoo's giant pandas, will not go on display at the National Museum of Natural History until at least 2001, a delay from plans announced Monday to exhibit the animal early next year.

Rather than put the stuffed panda up as a stand-alone display, museum spokesman Randall Kremer said yesterday, officials decided to exhibit the animal in a mock-up of its native bamboo-forest environment. That will be more educational, he said, but also will take more time.

"We have a tremendous opportunity to show a panda specimen, and we want to do it right," Kremer said. "The feeling is now that we should put it in the context of its native habitat."

Hsing-Hsing was euthanized Sunday because of worsening kidney disease. The panda and his mate, Ling-Ling, who died of heart failure in 1992, had been the zoo's most beloved animals since they arrived in 1972 as a gift of the Chinese government following President Richard M. Nixon's visit to that country.

The museum is modernizing its Hall of Mammals to eliminate single-animal displays and substitute fuller environmental exhibits that may include several specimens. Kremer said Hsing-Hsing may be included in a display with the museum's other preserved panda, a specimen that came from China decades ago.

Changes Considered at Fort Washington

Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) and National Park Service Director Robert Stanton visited Fort Washington National Park in Prince George's County yesterday to consider possible improvements in view of the fort's inclusion in a proposed historic trail, a spokesman for Sarbanes said.

Spokesman Jesse Jacobs said the Senate had joined the House in passing legislation directing the secretary of the interior to assess the feasibility of a Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail commemorating the War of 1812 in Maryland and the District.

The trail would include the path taken by the British when they overcame American forces and burned the Capitol in 1814 as well as the battle in Baltimore when the Americans defeated the British.

Jacobs said Sarbanes hopes to have the trail in place for a bicentennial celebration in 2012.

VIRGINIA

Proposal for Nokesville Track Rejected

The Virginia Racing Commission effectively killed the possibility of bringing horse racing to Northern Virginia yesterday by denying a Middleburg businessman's request that the panel reconsider his plans to build a track in western Prince William County.

The state panel turned down James J. Wilson's application for a Nokesville track last month, saying it would create too much competition with Virginia's only existing track, the financially strapped Colonial Downs, near Richmond.

Wilson offered last week to buy Colonial Downs and asked the racing commission to reconsider his Nokesville venture, saying competition would cease to be an issue. But Colonial Downs rejected the bid Monday.

Yesterday, the racing panel said that nothing in Wilson's application had changed to warrant a second look. Wilson, a horse breeder and developer, said he would not appeal the commission's decision.

Hospital Director Takes Arlington Job

The Gilmore administration said yesterday that John C. Russotto, facility director of the troubled Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute for the past 20 months, is resigning to run the Arlington County Community Services Board and the mental health division of the county Human Services Department.

In resigning, Russotto said that "there is still much to be accomplished before the facility is certified" by federal officials who want better conditions there.

In the summer of 1998, a patient in his twenties died at the 148-bed psychiatric hospital in Falls Church after his internal bleeding was diagnosed too late to save his life.

MARYLAND

Pilot of Downed Plane Was Flying Wrong Way

A small plane piloted by a Bethesda man was flying in the wrong direction before the aircraft crashed into a Newark neighborhood Friday, according to transcripts of the conversation between pilots and air traffic controllers. The crash killed the plane's three occupants and injured 25 people on the ground.

"I have a problem," Itzhak Jacoby said at least three times to air traffic controllers after taking off from New Jersey's Linden Airport in rainy weather, according to transcripts released by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The plane dropped from the sky about 10:55 a.m., killing Jacoby, 56, his wife, Gail, 50, and their daughter, Atira, 13.

Jacoby first told controllers he was in trouble just over a minute into the flight. He said he thought water had damaged a gyroscope, a device that helps pilots tell whether the aircraft is flying straight.

A controller then told Jacoby to head west and to stay at 2,000 feet. Jacoby was flying north and east before he crashed, the opposite of the direction he was supposed to be heading, according to the transcripts.

Trail to Get Bridges for Beltway, I-270

The Montgomery County Council approved $1.02 million yesterday to complete pedestrian bridges spanning Interstate 270 and the Capital Beltway as part of a hiker-biker trail that will eventually link White Flint Mall and the National Institutes of Health.

When they are finished next year, the North Bethesda Trail bridges will cross I-270 south of Tuckerman Lane and the Beltway north of NIH.

Council member Betty Ann Krahnke (R-Potomac-Bethesda) said: "These bridges are the key to making the trail work. They will make pedestrian and bicycle transportation in this region a more realistic option."

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"The interim chief will carry out a mandate to see that there is restructuring in many, many areas.... The interim chief will be about changing the department and not just adjusting the drapes."

--D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), who appointed Thomas Tippett, a deputy D.C. fire chief and former union president, to be interim fire chief.

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