News of interest to Loudoun that appeared in the daily Post May 9-15.


Iran Hostage Dies in Accident

Elizabeth Ann Swift Cronin, 63, a former State Department officer who spent 444 days as a hostage in Iran from 1979 to 1981, died May 7 in a horseback riding accident near her home in Rectortown. Cronin, who was unmarried at the time of the Iran hostage crisis and was known by her maiden name, Swift, was the ranking political officer and one of only two women among the 52 held by the followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini for more than 14 months. She was a member of the board of the Goose Creek Environmental Organization, a member of the Orange County Hunt and Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville.


Office Vacancy Rate Drops

Loudoun County's office vacancy rate fell from 19.7 percent a year ago to 15.8 percent in the first quarter, the lowest point in three years, but was still stuck close to the fourth quarter's 15.9 percent. Landlords evidently used low rates to lure some of the new tenants, since the average rent dropped to $21.13 a square foot for the first quarter from $21.63 a year ago.


MCI to Cut 7,500 Jobs

MCI Inc. said that it would eliminate 7,500 jobs, or 15 percent of its workforce, as part of an effort to bring costs in line with the long-distance giants' rapidly declining revenue. The Ashburn-based company made the announcement during a conference call when it also revealed that it lost $388 million ($1.19 per share) during the first quarter of 2004, compared with a profit of $52 million in the same period a year earlier.


County Gets Top Bond Rating

One of Wall Street's top bond-rating agencies, Moody's Investors Service, has given Loudoun County its highest rating, a distinction shared by just 42 counties nationwide that could save taxpayers millions in debt payments. Moody's said Loudoun, the nation's fastest-growing county, had proven adept at managing the fiscal strains of booming home building, a conclusion that runs contrary to much of the high-decibel political rhetoric in the county.


Students Sent to Hospital

Five Loudoun County ninth-graders were sent to the hospital after taking a combination of Dramamine and a cold medication in a school restroom, part of what experts said is an alarming trend in drug use, especially among younger teenagers. The students, who attend Harmony Intermediate School in Hamilton, were found out after a teacher noticed early Friday that one of them was acting strangely in class and seemed sleepy.