Air-Conditioning Problem Closes Offices

D.C. government offices at 941 North Capitol St., including the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, were evacuated and closed at midday yesterday after problems with the air conditioning produced an odor of burning oil.

Officials said a motor in the air-circulating system failed and sent smoke throughout the building, which also houses the Office of Tax and Revenue. No one was injured, and no fire was discovered.

The city's chief building inspector and officials from the Department of Health spent the remainder of the day checking the air quality, said regulatory agency spokesman Chris Bender. A decision about whether the building would be open today was to be made late last night, Bender said.


Education Board Approves Test Plan

The State Board of Education gave final approval yesterday to a plan that would allow high school students to fail at least one of the four state High School Assessments and still graduate as long as they earn a passing score when the results are combined.

The exams in English, algebra, biology and government will be required to receive a high school diploma starting with the Class of 2009, now in seventh grade. The maximum score on each exam is 800, and students must receive a combined score of 1613 to get a diploma, the board decided.

However, students will not receive diplomas if they score lower than a minimum -- yet to be set by the board -- on any of the tests.

The board had given the plan initial approval in February, but several key groups, including the Maryland State Teachers Association, had asked the panel last month to delay its final vote or scrap the plan altogether. The board forged ahead with the new graduation requirements yesterday in a 9 to 2 vote, with members John L. Wisthoff and Clarence A. Hawkins dissenting.

Pr. George's Weighs Lifting Pit Bull Ban

The Prince George's County Council began debating yesterday whether to lift the county's seven-year-old ban on pit bulls and mixed pit bull terriers and replace it with a broader measure that requires registration of all potentially dangerous dogs.

Council member Thomas R. Hendershot (D-New Carrollton) introduced the measure following the recommendations of a task force, which determined that the ban is costly and ineffective.

The county imposed the ban in 1997 after a spate of pit bull attacks and complaints among residents about pit bulls wandering neighborhoods. Rodney Taylor, chief of the county's Animal Management Division, said the breed-specific legislation has resulted in some of the most dangerous dogs in the county remaining free while pit bulls with no history of aggression have been put to death.

"This is an approach that we believe will improve public safety," Hendershot said. "It's fairer, more balanced and, I think, a more effective approach."

Lanham resident Pearline Chittams testified against the repeal. "This bill asks us to close our eyes to everything we know about pit bulls. . . . Pit bulls are bred to fight, just as retrievers were bred to fetch," Chittams said.

Rain Damages Some State Parks

Access to some state parks will be limited after Monday's thunderstorms damaged some areas, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' State Forest and Park Service said yesterday.

Swimming will be prohibited at Cunningham Falls State Park in Frederick County until further notice after storms dumped four to five inches of rain in the area, causing ditches to overflow, the park's lake to fill with debris, and the bridge on Catoctin Hollow Road to wash out.

The bridge is on the main county road into the park; a detour is about eight miles around on narrow county roads. Other day use and camping areas will be open, but access roads to the park remain covered with debris.

Rocks State Park in Jarrattsville also sustained water damage. The Wilson's and Hills Grove areas of the park will be closed until further notice.


Man, 83, Dies of Injuries From Crash

An 83-year-old Springfield area man has died of injuries suffered in a car crash last week on the Franconia-Springfield Parkway, Fairfax County police said yesterday.

Robert F. Schultz, of the 7400 block of Spring Village Drive, was driving a 2002 Toyota Corolla south on the parkway Friday afternoon. About 2 p.m., Schultz started to make a left turn into Spring Village Drive, and his car was struck by a 1992 Toyota 4Runner driven by Kenneth Weschler, 42, of Manassas, police said.

Schultz was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he died Saturday, police said. Both drivers were wearing seat belts, and investigators do not believe that speed or alcohol was a factor in the crash. No charges were filed against Weschler.

Eye Tests Required for Elderly Drivers

Starting July 1, drivers age 80 and older will be required to appear in person at the Department of Motor Vehicles and pass a vision screening test before they renew their driver's licenses.

Drivers have two options: They may take their test on a DMV machine, which requires them to read lines of letters or numbers, or they may submit a screening report completed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist within 90 days of renewal.

The requirement is the result of legislation passed this year. A person's corrected vision must be 20/40 in at least one eye.

Kidney Donor Wins $500,000 in Lottery

A woman who changed the fortunes of a man she didn't know by donating a kidney has come into a fortune of her own by winning $500,000 in the Virginia Lottery.

"I think if you do good things for people, good things will happen to you," Mitzi Nichols, 44, of Virginia Beach said at a news conference. "I don't know why it happened. I'm just real glad it did."

Nichols, a cashier in the gift shop on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, bought her winning scratch-off ticket at work Monday.

She plans to keep her job and use her winnings -- $355,000 after taxes -- to buy her first house, a truck for her husband and a car for herself, and to pay off her daughter's student loans and help her return to college. She is also going to pay to fix the car of the man who received her kidney, Calvin Saunders of Portsmouth.

"It is the court's duty, strongly reinforced in light of current world events, to see that the guarantees of the U.S. Constitution are respected, even in the case of someone who may be despised by the entire polity."

-- U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte, on why an indefinite stay of execution was granted to condemned Maryland inmate Steven Oken. -- Page B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers David Nakamura, Del Quentin Wilber, Ylan Q. Mui, Ovetta Wiggins and Tom Jackman and the Associated Press.