THE DISTRICT

Judges to Meet Residents of Wards 5, 6

The D.C. courts will host town hall-style meetings this week for residents of Wards 5 and 6.

Superior Court Chief Judge Rufus G. King III and other judges will be on hand to hear from community members at each of the meetings.

Superior Court cases include landlord-tenant disputes, probate matters, child neglect and violent crime.

The first gathering, for Ward 5, will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Backus Middle School, 5171 South Dakota Ave. NE.

The second gathering, for Ward 6, will be from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday in the jurors' lounge at the main D.C. courthouse, 500 Indiana Ave. NW.

MARYLAND

Washington-Bound Amtrak Train Halted

An Amtrak train on its way to Washington was stopped in Cumberland, Md., for several hours and searched yesterday after passengers reported that two men of "Middle Eastern descent" were acting suspiciously, the FBI said.

The incident began shortly before 11 a.m., when some servicemen saw one man putting something under his shirt and another working on a computer, authorities said. The servicemen contacted an Amtrak employee, who notified Cumberland police, said W. Faron Taylor, Maryland deputy state fire marshal.

Barry Maddox, an FBI spokesman, said the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and other law enforcement officers detained and interviewed the men and determined that there was no need for concern. Both were released. Bomb-sniffing dogs searched the train, which had left Chicago on Saturday night, and found no explosives.

An Amtrak spokesman said the train's 233 passengers, including the two men, arrived by bus in Washington at 10:30 last night. He said the train was sent later to Washington without passengers.

A spokesman said trains are stopped because of similar reports about once a week.

Baltimore to Purge Old E-Mail Messages

Trying to get out from under an avalanche of millions of old e-mail messages clogging municipal computers, Baltimore will start automatically deleting any messages older than 90 days within the next month.

City workers must sort through personal messages and spam to find any e-mails on official agency business, then save those messages on their hard drives or on paper.

Some political commentators said they see a potential loss for historians, reporters and others interested in perusing public records.

"Who's going to go through their e-mail and do that?" asked Lee Strickland, director of the University of Maryland's Center for Information Policy. "You're going to have reams of material disappear because people aren't going to take that affirmative step."

Baltimore officials said they have no choice but to delete old messages, which are slowing city computers to a crawl. They said the system is so overburdened that creating a daily backup has become impossible.

VIRGINIA

Fort Belvoir Logistics Unit Deployed

About 20 soldiers from a logistics unit based at Fort Belvoir deployed yesterday to points in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, the Army said.

The unit, known as the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program Support Unit, is an all-reserve outfit that serves as the primary liaison between military units and civilian contractors.

Such contractors are responsible for many battlefield support functions, including laundries, mailrooms and cafeterias.

The soldiers will replace colleagues stationed in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Kuwait and Iraq as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Bill Would Lift Laws on Scrapping Ships

Environmental laws that block the foreign scrapping of junk Navy ships and obsolete vessels in the James River "Ghost Fleet" could be dropped for six years, if a bill in Congress becomes law.

The bill is causing a stir at U.S. shipyards and among environmental groups.

Critics say the proposal, introduced late last month by Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.), would reopen the door to dozens or even hundreds of rusting old ships going to China, India and other developing nations for cheap disposal.

Idil Oyman, a spokeswoman for English, said the bill is not intended to override a ban on sending the ships overseas. Instead, she said, the legislation seeks to suspend tough environmental laws temporarily so U.S. shipyards can better compete for ship-breaking contracts on growing numbers of mothballed vessels.

The vessels contain such toxins as waste oil, asbestos and lead. They're also laden with steel, the price of which has increased sharply in recent months. The bill does not specifically spell out the domestic goal.

"He reinforced [the idea] that if we're a religious people and we embrace that, America will be stronger."

-- Reg Babcock, 56, at McLean Bible Church, describing Ronald Reagan's sense of the place religion has in American society. -- Page B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Henri E. Cauvin, Allan Lengel and Steven Ginsberg and the Associated Press.

Travelers leave Washington-bound Amtrak train No. 30 in Cumberland, Md., after a report of two suspicious men on board.