VIRGINIA

Child's Wheelchair Mistakenly Trashed

Kendall Collins leaves her daughter's custom-made wheelchair in the driveway of their home in Suffolk every morning as a signal to the bus driver that 7-year-old Camry, who has cerebral palsy, needs a lift to school.

But Thursday morning, a trash collector arrived before the bus and threw Camry's walker, book bag and wheelchair in the back of the truck with the garbage and assorted junk.

After hearing a loud engine coming down the street, Collins and her daughter went outside and found only a large Waste Management Inc. truck whose driver said he couldn't open the back and remove the chair.

"Once you put it in there, the only way you can get it out is to dump it out the back," said Waste Management's site manager, Mark Potter, who along with the driver apologized to the family. "We couldn't open the back door and dump the trash out in the street."

The wheelchair and walker were taken to a landfill in Hampton. Both were retrieved but were mangled. Waste Management arranged for Camry to get a new wheelchair; she will use a loaner chair until her custom-fitted model arrives.

Unconscious Man Found Outdoors Dies

A Fairfax County man believed to be homeless apparently died of hypothermia after being found on a sidewalk in the Lincolnia area Thursday morning.

A biting cold front had swept through the area when Larry McGuin, 53, was found lying behind the Arby's restaurant in the 4800 block of Beauregard Street. When police could not rouse him from what appeared to be a deep sleep, he was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he died Thursday.

William Hauda, Fairfax County's deputy medical examiner, said the county has several deaths each winter primarily related to the cold and not always from outdoor exposure.

Elderly residents sometimes fall or suffer strokes and die of hypothermia when they are unable to get up. He said that prolonged exposure to cold temperatures isn't necessary for body temperatures to drop below 95 degrees and that mild hypothermia can cause disorientation that often creates more dangerous situations.

Arguments Heard on Out-of-State Trash

A federal judge in Richmond heard arguments yesterday on whether he should strike down state laws limiting out-of-state garbage before a lawsuit challenging the statutes goes to trial.

Judge James R. Spencer said he would rule in a few days on Waste Management Inc.'s request for a summary judgment declaring the new laws unconstitutional.

Houston-based Waste Management sued Virginia in June, contending that laws passed by the 1999 General Assembly violate the U.S. Constitution by interfering with interstate commerce. The laws were to take effect July 1, but Spencer issued an injunction putting the laws on hold while the case proceeds.

The new laws would cap landfill growth, ban garbage barges from three state rivers, prohibit barge facilities from receiving municipal waste and more tightly regulate trash trucks on Virginia highways.

MARYLAND

Testing of Birds for Fatal Virus

Suspended Maryland health officials said yesterday that they have stopped collecting and testing dead birds for the West Nile virus, responsible for an encephalitis outbreak in New York City at the end of the summer that is believed to have killed a half-dozen elderly people and sickened 40 others.

In October, officials said a dead crow found in downtown Baltimore tested positive for the virus. But no confirmed cases of the West Nile virus in humans have been recorded in Maryland.

The virus is transmitted to the birds by mosquitoes, and the cold weather has greatly reduced their number, said Clifford Johnson, state public health veterinarian. Officials said testing of dead birds would resume in spring.

Duncan Signs Gay Partners' Benefits Bill

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) signed legislation yesterday to extend health insurance benefits to the live-in partners of homosexual county employees. The measure will become law in 90 days.

The County Council passed the domestic partners bill this week allowing gay county employees to add partners they have lived with for at least a year to their health insurance plan.

Montgomery is the third Maryland jurisdiction to offer domestic partner benefits, following Baltimore and Takoma Park.

Conservative groups have scheduled a meeting next week to begin planning a petition drive to qualify the issue for the referendum ballot, possibly giving county voters an opportunity to overturn the benefits.

THE DISTRICT

2 Forums on Police Misconduct Planned

The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department will accept testimony from D.C. residents about incidents of police brutality and police misconduct over the past five years at two community forums next week.

The first session, focusing on problems in Wards 1 through 5, will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at All Souls Unitarian Church, 16th and Harvard streets NW. The second session, focusing on Wards 6 through 8, will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Bethlehem Baptist Church, 2458 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE.

The forums are sponsored by the D.C. NAACP Police Task Force, the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area, the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance, the National Black Police Association, the D.C. chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Enough Is Enough Campaign, the National Council of Black Lawyers, the Asian Pacific American Bar Association and Mario Acosta-Velez, executive director of the D.C. Latino Civil Rights Center.

THE REGION

Silver Spring, Alexandria Holding Parades

Do you love a parade?

Some streets will be closed in Silver Spring this morning for the Montgomery County Holiday Parade. It starts at 10 a.m. at Georgia and Sligo avenues, runs north on Georgia to Wayne Avenue and continues east on Wayne to Cedar Street.

In Alexandria, the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade will snake through Old Town from 10:30 a.m. to noon today. It starts at Wilkes and South Pitt streets, heads north on Pitt to Cameron Street, turns west on Cameron, south on North St. Asaph Street and ends at South St. Asaph and Wolfe streets.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"I feel like Judge Judy in this case."

-- Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge S. Michael Pincus, hearing a divorce custody dispute over a 9-year-old dog named Sable.