VIRGINIA

U-Va. Chief Apologizes for Halftime Show

University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III apologized yesterday for a Continental Tire Bowl halftime performance by the school's pep band that mocked West Virginia's rural image.

Casteen said in a statement that the halftime show, in which West Virginians were depicted wearing overalls and pigtails, "crossed the line between humor and the ridicule that the [Atlantic Coast Conference, the National Collegiate Athletic Association] and simple decency proscribe."

"We respect our colleagues at West Virginia University and also West Virginians generally," Casteen said.

Casteen said he had not seen the halftime show and has been unable to obtain a videotape.

The skit, approved by U-Va. and bowl officials before the game, was a parody of the television show "The Bachelor," with a male Virginia student choosing between two female contestants.

One female, purportedly from West Virginia, had blue overalls, pigtails, a talent for square dancing and a dream to move to Beverly Hills, Calif. -- a reference to "The Beverly Hillbillies."

The performance prompted West Virginia Gov. Robert E. Wise Jr. to demand an apology from Casteen. Wise said in a letter that "this type of performance merely perpetuates the unfounded stereotypes that we in West Virginia are fighting so hard to overcome."

Liquor Stores to Open an Hour Later

Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control stores will open an hour later because of cuts in the state budget, agency officials said yesterday. The changes take effect immediately.

ABC officials said that by opening stores at 11 a.m. instead of 10 a.m., the state will save $175,000 for the remainder of fiscal 2003 and $325,000 in fiscal 2004, which begins in July. The changes, which will not alter closing times, were originally announced in November, but officials said they delayed making a reminder announcement until yesterday to avoid confusing holiday shoppers.

The reductions in store hours will help the state chip away at its $1.2 billion budget shortfall, officials said. The changes will affect all but three of the 265 ABC stores across the state. An Arlington store and a Vienna store will retain their hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. because the two outlets generally sell to commercial businesses, officials said.

Visitation Allowed in Switched-Baby Case

The Virginia Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court ruling that curtailed a Buena Vista man's right to visit one of two children who were switched at birth by a hospital's mistake.

Carlton Conley had appealed the ruling in May by a Stafford County Circuit Court judge that eliminated his right to unaccompanied visits with the child, who was wrongly given to him and Paula K. Johnson by the University of Virginia Hospital in 1995.

The Circuit Court judge had ruled that Conley's marriage to another woman in April and relocation to Buena Vista represented a change in circumstances that nullified a previous order granting him visitation rights. Under the May ruling, Conley was allowed to visit the child only in the company of her biological parents' family members.

The child's biological parents, Kevin Chittum and Whitney Rogers, were killed in a car wreck in 1998. Their parents were awarded custody of Conley and Johnson's biological child.

In an opinion issued Tuesday, Court of Appeals Judge Rosemarie Annunziata wrote that Johnson had failed to prove that Conley's marriage and relocation had affected the child negatively.

MARYLAND

Academy Official Tapped for Promotion

The second in command at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis is one of five Marine colonels nominated for promotion to brigadier general, the Department of Defense announced yesterday.

Col. John R. Allen, who as commandant of the academy performs duties similar to a college dean, is likely to take his new rank in six months to a year, after confirmation by Congress.

Allen said he was "honored and deeply humbled" by the promotion.

The jump from colonel to brigadier general is the most difficult in the military. Of 241 Marine colonels eligible for the promotion, only five were nominated by a promotion board composed of nine generals.

Rain Floods Banks in Western Md.

Rivers and creeks swollen by New Year's Day rain overran their banks yesterday, closing more than a dozen rural roads in western Maryland.

The National Weather Service predicted flooding along the Potomac River near Shepherdstown, W.Va., last night and issued a coastal flood warning for Delaware.

The flooding, though not severe, made managers of the Monocacy National Battlefield near Frederick wary. They closed a half-mile trail along the Monocacy River and removed some outdoor exhibits at the Civil War site.

"We'll just wait and see what the river's going to do," Ranger Tracy Shives said.

Rain continued to drizzle yesterday after pouring one to two inches across the region Wednesday. The Weather Service predicted more precipitation today but said some would fall as ice or snow, which are less likely to cause flooding.

The Monocacy, a Potomac tributary, reached its 15-foot flood stage in Frederick about noon, according to the Weather Service's Web site.

THE DISTRICT

Gas Leak Causes GWU Evacuation

Part of George Washington University's Academic Center was evacuated last night after a defective natural-gas regulator sprang a leak, fire officials said.

A heavy gas odor was detected about 7 p.m., when the D.C. fire department's hazardous-materials team was called to the scene. The team evacuated the building and called Washington Gas crews to find the leak.

The regulator on a boiler was leaking, so crews cut the gas to that machine, which is part of the university's equipment and will be fixed by its building maintenance crews, said Washington Gas spokesman Tim Sargeant.

Everyone was allowed back in the building about an hour later, a fire official said.

"I stand here today a wiser man, learning as much from the mistakes of the past four years as from our successes."

-- D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, in the inaugural speech

opening his second term. -- Page B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Nelson Hernandez, Chris L. Jenkins and Petula Dvorak and the Associated Press.