THE DISTRICT

Cots Stocked for Y2K Benefit Homeless

Add the homeless to the list of those benefiting from the massive preparations for possible Y2K problems that didn't materialize.

The District's Emergency Management Agency is giving the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness 150 cots that were purchased in case the famous New Year's Day computer glitch caused big trouble.

"Although we didn't have to use them during the rollover, the severe weather we are experiencing now is causing an increase in the number of homeless people seeking overnight shelter," said Peter G. LaPorte, the agency's director. "We are fortunate to have them on hand so that we can make them available to the Community Partnership. It is essential that we all work together to see that this critical need is met."

Cornell Chappelle, Community Partnership's outreach coordinator, said the cots will be used at "overflow sites" that are opened after beds at existing shelters are filled. Federal law, he said, requires that shelters be opened for the homeless when the temperature falls below 26 degrees Fahrenheit.

Georgetown University Gets $5 Million Gift

Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service has received a donation of $5 million to establish a chair for a professor of diplomacy as well as leadership and facilities funds.

The money was donated by Michael Mortara, a 1971 graduate of the school and a managing director with Goldman, Sachs & Co., and his wife, Virginia.

The Mortara Chair will enable the School of Foreign Service--the oldest and largest of its kind in the country--to recruit distinguished professors who are influential in international politics, according to the school's dean, Robert Gallucci.

MARYLAND

Commission Delays Bear-Hunting Decision

The Maryland Wildlife Advisory Commission took no action this week on a recommendation for a two-day hunting season for black bears in Garrett and Allegany counties. But panel members said the commission will consider the request at a meeting this winter or spring.

"The feeling of the commission is that it's a public issue that needs to be addressed. We haven't worked out a mechanism for doing that," said Lowell Adams, a University of Maryland wildlife biology professor.

Chairman Spaulding A. Goetze said the panel would "attempt to move ahead as quickly as possible" on the Maryland Sportsmen's Association proposal for the state's first black bear season since 1953.

Larry Albright, president of the statewide group, told the commission the current policy of managing the growing bear population according to the state's "cultural carrying capacity" has been a failure in far Western Maryland, where most of the state's estimated 400 black bears live.

The estimated population has doubled since 1995, when a state task force recommended crop-damage compensation, a hunting season and increased public education about living near bears. The DNR rejected the hunting proposal and, at the urging of animal-welfare groups, began selling $5 bear conservation stamps to help compensate farmers for crop damage.

Pr. George's Schools Seat May Be Filled

Felicia Lasley, an attorney for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is expected to be named to the Prince George's County Board of Education, officials said.

Lasley, 30, was nominated by County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D) to serve the final year of the four-year term of Alvin Thornton, who resigned last month. If her appointment is confirmed Tuesday by the County Council, she will represent District 7, comprising Suitland, Capitol Heights and surrounding middle- and working-class neighborhoods just east of the District.

Lasley, who lost to Thornton in the November 1996 school board election, attended Suitland High School and served as the president of the Student Government Association.

Fire Damages Historic Baltimore Building

A late-night fire this week severely damaged what preservationists call an important building constructed in 1879 in downtown Baltimore.

Fire officials said 100 firefighters worked for more than four hours early Wednesday to extinguish the four-alarm blaze in the building at 423 W. Baltimore St., which features a rare cast-iron storefront.

The building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places as one of 20 city structures with the cast-iron feature, houses a coffee shop, artists' studios and storage space.

VIRGINIA

Health Measures Top Democrats' Agenda

Democrats in the General Assembly announced their support yesterday for measures that would provide health insurance for more children, funding for community mental heath services and tax credits for those who care for elderly relatives in their homes.

They also called for legislation that would allow individuals who are laid off from work to keep health benefits by enrolling in Medicaid.

Democrats were unable to provide a cost estimate for their proposed legislation, except to say that the additional mental health funding would amount to more than $100 million a year.

Earlier in the week, Democrats rallied behind legislation to subsidize prescription drugs for the elderly and disabled, allow patients to sue health maintenance organizations and give patients more freedom to choose doctors.

Confederate Generals' Letters Donated

Letters written by Robert E. Lee and three other Confederate generals have been donated to the University of Virginia's special collections department, according to a university spokeswoman.

Four letters--from Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson and Joseph B. Johnston--were given to the university by alumnus and Johnston relative Robert M. Hughes and his wife.

The letters by Lee, Stuart and Jackson were written between 1861 and 1863, and the one by Johnston was written in 1884.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"We're supposed to have the toughest gun prohibitions in the nation, and yet our streets are flooded with guns. Every day new guns come into our city from sources in Maryland and from sources in Virginia. It's illegal. It's dangerous. It's entirely preventable, and yet it's happening."

-- D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D). The city filed suit yesterday seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages from gun makers and distributors.