VIRGINIA

Police Apologize for Confiscating Camera

The commander of the Fairfax County police officers who seized a camera from a group of high school journalists personally apologized to the students yesterday.

"Obviously, what we did was wrong," Capt. Arthur Hurlock, the West Springfield District commander, said outside Annandale High School. He said department policy is not to delete pictures.

But that was what an officer did Tuesday, when some staff members of the school paper, the A-Blast, began taking digital pictures of police searching a car near their school.

Kyle Smeallie, 17, the paper's news editor, said a female officer stopped their car and confiscated the camera. A male officer later returned the camera -- minus the photos.

That officer later claimed that the deletion was an accident, Smeallie said.

Study of Electronic Voting Systems Sought

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) was among more than a dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives who asked congressional auditors yesterday to study the security of electronic voting systems.

The lawmakers wrote a letter to the General Accounting Office, Congress's investigative arm, asking the GAO to describe the steps federal and state government entities are taking to ensure the reliability of electronic voting systems, identify issues that need to be addressed to improve security and cite "best practices" that can be implemented to improve security.

It also requests that after this year's election, GAO investigators survey local and state election officials about the extent to which they complied with their states' electronic voting security procedures.

Warner 'Optimistic' on Credit Rating

Gov. Mark R. Warner says he is "very optimistic" that Virginia will keep its top credit rating with Moody's Investors Service.

The service put Virginia on a "credit watch" in September, saying it had concerns about the state funding its immediate commitments and stating concerns about the state's decision to phase out the car tax.

Warner (D) told a small group of local leaders and government officials at Virginia Commonwealth University yesterday that the state budget approved by the General Assembly a week ago may have cured it all.

The budget includes about $1.4 billion in tax increases.

Dulles Getting Help With Summer Delays

Dulles International will be among 25 busy airports that federal officials will monitor closely this summer, sending in extra help if security delays arise.

The plan to minimize waits for travelers comes as the industry gears up for what's expected to be the busiest summer for air travel since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Along with extra screeners, the Transportation Security Administration plans an ad campaign with tips on how passengers can move more quickly through security checks.

Passengers can expect specialists at the airports to "coach" them through what's needed at the checkpoints.

MARYLAND

Detente in Miss Md. Agriculture Contest

Miss Maryland Agriculture will be crowned at this year's state fair without the blazers, gowns or tiara that led to a spat between fair officials and the Maryland Farm Bureau.

The new contest will incorporate the best of the older "Farm Queen" and newer "Agricultural Ambassador" competitions, officials with both groups said yesterday.

The two-day competition will begin Aug. 27 at the fair's Cow Palace among 23 women ages 16 to 19 who have won county Farm Bureau-sponsored contests.

The 23 will be judged primarily on farm/agriculture experience, speaking ability, Farm Bureau knowledge, personality, friendliness and personal presentation, the groups announced.

THE DISTRICT

WASA Plans Change in Water Treatment

The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority will send letters to select customers in the next two weeks alerting them to changes that will take place June 1 to solve the lead leaching problems.

A team of scientists studying the issue has decided to treat the water with zinc orthophosphate, a chemical that is used to create a protective coating on pipes and fixtures so they will not leach metal into the water.

Officials will begin the process on a limited portion of the distribution system June 1 and will mail letters to those customers to alert them that their water could turn reddish or mud-colored temporarily.

Officials said that if customers see discolored water, they should flush their taps until the water becomes clear. The letter will include instructions and a telephone number to call for assistance.

THE REGION

Streets to Close West of Capitol Today

Six streets near the west side of the Capitol will be closed for part of today as a security measure for the National Peace Officers' Memorial Service.

The streets that will be closed from 12:01 a.m. to 3 p.m. are nearby parts of First Street and Pennsylvania and Maryland avenues.

Closed from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. will be parts of Independence, Constitution and New Jersey avenues near the Capitol's West Front.

FTC, Capital City Mortgage Reach Accord

The former general counsel of Capital City Mortgage Corp. has agreed to stay out of the debt-collection business as part of a settlement in a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission.

Eric J. Sanne of Chevy Chase also agreed to pay $20,000 to the FTC. He did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement, which was announced yesterday.

The FTC sued Capital City in 1998 on behalf of 1,200 Washington area borrowers, many of whom eventually faced foreclosure. The FTC alleged that Capital City defrauded and deceived borrowers into accepting high-cost loans with high-interest penalties. Sanne was named individually as a defendant.

The FTC still is pursuing its multimillion-dollar complaint against Capital City in U.S. District Court.

"I'll kill him deader than hell. There's just no way you can control [snakeheads]. You're going to see a lot of dead bass floating around."

-- Bass fisherman Roby Johnson, 70, sitting on the dock at Smallwood State Park's Sweden Point Marina in Charles County, Md. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers David Nakamura, Martin Weil and Sandra Fleishman and the Associated Press.