Number of Area Welfare Recipients Rises

Poor Economy, Budget Cuts Are Blamed

Welfare rolls in the Washington area have started to rise after nearly five years of decline, reflecting the weakened economy that has brought widespread layoffs and also forced cuts in services designed to keep families off public assistance. Some officials say the increases should not be seen as a failure of welfare reform. Advocates for the poor say they worry about the erosion of support for families on welfare.

Moose Hires Firm in Book Controversy

Police Chief Wants Approval From Ethics Panel

In a move to win approval from ethic officials to write a book on the inside story of the Washington area sniper manhunt, Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose has hired a politically connected Bethesda law firm. The law firm sent a letter reminding the panel that "there are some serious constitutional issues involved in telling people they can't write books," according to Ronald Karp, Moose's attorney.

Mistaken Freedom

Prison Releases Were Errors, Montgomery Says

Montgomery County corrections officials mistakenly released seven prisoners since January 2000 -- five during the last year -- but did not publicly disclose the errors, according to records obtained by The Washington Post. The reasons for the foul-ups included paperwork mistakes, miscalculated sentences and, in one case, a man released in place of a cousin with the same surname. Every inmate was recaptured within a few days, and none is believed to have committed crimes while at large. County Corrections Director Arthur M. Wallenstein described the mistakes as regrettable but not cause for alarm.

Defeat for the Governor

Senate Rejects Choice for Environment Chief

The Maryland Senate rejected Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s nominee to head the Department of the Environment, handing an embarrassing defeat to the new Republican governor. On a 26 to 21 vote, the Senate opposed Lynn Buhl for the position, the first time since the state went to a Cabinet system in 1969 that a nominee has been turned down. Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery) argued that the former auto industry attorney from Michigan had failed to demonstrate a strong commitment to enforcing the state's environmental regulations.

Guilty Plea in Scientist's Murder

Teenager Was Friend of Victim's Daughter

Kyle Hulbert, 19, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and conspiracy in the Dec. 8, 2001, slaying of Loudoun County biophysicist Robert M. Schwartz.

Prosecutors said Hulbert, who has a history of mental illness, was acting at the behest of Schwartz's youngest daughter, Clara Jane Schwartz, 20, when he slashed and stabbed Robert Schwartz, 57, in his remote Leesburg farmhouse. Clara Schwartz is serving a 48-year prison sentence for orchestrating her father's death, and another friend, Michael Pfohl, 22, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is scheduled to be sentenced in April. Pfohl's girlfriend, Katherine Inglis, 20, faces a conspiracy charge in the plot.

Hold-the-Line Budget in Alexandria

Tax Rate Would Drop, but Tax Bill Would Rise

Alexandria City Manager Philip G. Sunderland proposed a $398.6 million budget for the coming fiscal year that would reduce the real estate tax rate by 3 cents -- from $1.08 per $100 of assessed value to $1.05. The proposal does not offer new initiatives, nor does it propose cuts in services.

The proposed operating budget for fiscal 2004 would boost spending by $24.7 million, or 6.6 percent . The rate cut would be possible because a 20 percent increase in real estate assessments has expanded the city's tax base, Sunderland said. .

Late bloomers: The National Park Service predicts that cherry blossoms won't show until the second or third week in April. The festival is March 22 to April 7. Astronaut mourned: Paul Brown receives the flag from his son's coffin at Arlington National Cemetery. Navy Capt. David M. Brown died on the Columbia.