MARYLAND

Bill to Bar Bear Hunting Rejected

A bill to prohibit bear hunting in Maryland for at least six more years died in a legislative committee yesterday.

The House Environmental Matters Committee voted the measure down. The state's black bear population is mostly concentrated in Western Maryland. State officials say the population has doubled in the past eight years, leading to more complaints about bears damaging crops and property.

Bear hunting has not been sanctioned in Maryland since 1953. There are now about 400 bears in Maryland, but proponents of the moratorium said that's still too small and vulnerable a number.

The Department of Natural Resources opposed the bill, saying it wants to keep its options for controlling the population over the next few years.

NAACP Warns State on Profiling Case

NAACP officials said that if the state Board of Public Works does not vote on the proposed racial profiling settlement by March 19, they will scrap the agreement and continue with their lawsuit.

"This thing has been going on long enough," Herbert H. Lindsey, president of the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, said Thursday. "It needs to be moved on now."

Lindsey is calling on the board, made up of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (D) and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D), to vote at its next meeting on the consent decree that would settle the lawsuit.

The proposed $325,000 settlement would require policy changes by the state police and would cover legal expenses of minority motorists who allege that they were stopped by troopers solely on the basis of their ethnicity. A federal judge is reviewing several provisions in the consent decree at the request of the governor's office.

THE DISTRICT

Kenilworth Lanes to Close for Repairs

Weather permitting, two lanes of northbound Kenilworth Avenue will be closed today for repairs. The affected lanes are between Benning Road and Nannie Helen Burroughs Boulevard NE. The lanes will be shut down from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Memorial Honors Czech Founder

A ceremony marking the completion of a memorial to the founding father of Czechoslovakia, Tomas G. Masaryk, is scheduled today in Northwest Washington.

The Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, and other Czech officials are expected to attend the 2 p.m. event at the Embassy Row memorial at Massachusetts Avenue and 22nd Street NW. The memorial sits on a small patch of federal land and features a 12-foot bronze statue of Masaryk that was created in 1937 and is being displayed for the first time in the United States.

Threatening Letter Sent to Judge

A D.C. Superior Court judge received a threatening letter in his chambers yesterday that contained a white powdery substance. It was deemed to be harmless, but not before five court workers were quarantined and one lower-level floor evacuated, officials said.

A law enforcement source said the letter sent to the courthouse, at 500 Indiana Ave. NW, was "threatening" but provided no other information. The FBI will investigate, the source said.

An administrative assistant to Judge Melvin R. Wright opened the letter, and a white powdery substance spilled out, said Alan Etter, spokesman for D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services.

Four staff members and a U.S. deputy marshal were quarantined in the judge's chambers by the time hazardous materials crews arrived about 3:30 p.m., Etter said. Wright was not present, and at no time did any of those quarantined suffer ill health effects, Etter said.

VIRGINIA

Probe Clears Lincoln Statue Group

A National Park Service investigation found nothing to support allegations of fraud made against a group planning to put a statue of Abraham Lincoln in the former capital of the Confederacy.

"We have looked into the financial records of the U.S. Historical Society and cannot find any impropriety," Cynthia MacLeod, superintendent of Richmond National Battlefield Park, said Thursday.

Sandy Rives, state director for the Park Service, responded to questions about the society in a Feb. 21 memo to officials at the U.S. Department of Interior. He said all proceeds from the sale of miniature versions of the statue "will be received by the valid nonprofit corporation." His memo came after he ordered the society to stop using the Park Service's name in marketing materials. The group hopes to finance the statue by offering 750 miniatures for $900 each, excluding taxes.

Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-Va.) asked the Park Service to investigate the society based on marketing materials that offered the miniature. The statue is to be placed at the Park Service's Richmond National Battlefield Park Civil War Visitor Center at the Tredegar Iron Works, a major supplier of Confederate munitions.

Del. Almand Not Seeking Reelection

Virginia Del. James F. Almand (D) has announced that he will not seek reelection, making him the second senior member from Arlington to retire since the General Assembly finished its work last month. Almand had served 26 years.

Almand, 54, a lawyer, said he wants to spend more time with his family. He had served for six years as the chairman of the House Courts Committee and led efforts to limit handgun purchases and allow more review in death penalty cases. He lost his chairmanship in recent years, when Republicans took control of the House.

Almand was the sixth most senior House member, having been first elected in 1978. L. Karen Darner (D), another Arlington delegate who was elected in 1991, also has said she will not run again.

Health Care Worker Improves

A health care worker who became ill after receiving a smallpox vaccination in Virginia's emergency preparedness program was reported to be feeling better yesterday and is heading back to work, Health Department officials said.

The unidentified woman, from southwestern Virginia, developed a low-grade fever and headache on Feb. 28, nine days after receiving the voluntary vaccination. A rash followed on Sunday. The woman underwent tests Wednesday at an undisclosed hospital.

Officials said yesterday that the woman's symptoms had cleared up and that she would be returning to work.

"After fighting all day long, it came down to who would get to use the phone first. It's very sad and tragic."

-- A source familiar with the investigation of a homicide that occurred after siblings argued over whose turn it was to use the phone. Story, Page B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Arthur Santana, Manny Fernandez, Michael D. Shear and Leef Smith and the Associated Press.