THE REGION

Honor Sought for U.S. Capitol Artist

Italian American and Greek American organizations have joined the Constantino Brumidi Society in asking that Brumidi, whose works decorate the U.S. Capitol, be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom next year to commemorate the bicentennial of his birth.

The Order Sons of Italy in America, the American Hellenic Education and Progressive Association and the National Italian American Foundation wrote the White House last week asking that Brumidi be given the recognition posthumously because of his artistic contributions to the nation and his love of his adopted country. The Italian artist, whose father was Greek, spent 25 years doing works for the Capitol, including "The Apotheosis of Washington" in the eye of the dome.

"No immigrant to the United States ever did more for the U.S. or had greater love for his adopted country," said Joe Grano, chairman of the Constantino Brumidi Society. The group will mark the 199th anniversary of Brumidi's birth Sunday at 1 p.m. at his grave at Glenwood Cemetery, 2219 Lincoln Rd. NE.

THE DISTRICT

Congressman Arrested at Embassy

A U.S. congressman, his wife and a political activist were arrested yesterday on disorderly conduct charges during a protest at the Sudanese Embassy, authorities said.

Rep. Joseph M. Hoeffel III (D-Pa.), his wife, Francesca, and comedian turned activist Dick Gregory were arrested about 12:15 p.m. by uniformed Secret Service officers and taken to a D.C. police station for processing, officials said.

Hoeffel was the third congressman arrested in a week during a protest at the Sudanese Embassy. Hoeffel and about 30 others yesterday protested what they call government-sponsored genocide in the African nation. Thousands have been killed in Sudan in the last 18 months. About 1 million people have been forced from their homes.

Last week, Reps. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) were charged in separate protests.

MARYLAND

Anthrax Investigators Search Labs

Investigators in the anthrax attacks have been searching for evidence at some of Fort Detrick's laboratories in Frederick for the past several days, resulting in the temporary closure of those facilities, authorities said yesterday.

FBI agents and postal inspectors began reviewing records and searching for evidence Friday at Fort Detrick's U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. They were expected to continue through the week, said law enforcement sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

The sources said the search did not represent a major break in the case but was part of the ongoing probe to unearth clues in the attacks, which killed five people in 2001 and left 17 ill.

Charles Dasey, a Fort Detrick spokesman, said the facility was "temporarily closing some of its laboratory suites in support of an ongoing FBI criminal investigation." He said it was the first time some suites had been closed for the probe.

Steele to Speak at GOP Convention

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele learned this week that he will be speaking at the Republican National Convention in New York.

Steele received word of the speaking engagement from Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie after spending much of July on the road campaigning for President Bush. Steele has also been named a co-chairman of the National African-American Steering Committee for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign.

"I am honored and humbled for the opportunity to represent both my party and my community at the national convention," Steele said in a statement.

Prince George's Targets Illegal Signs

Prince George's County officials took to the streets yesterday in a crackdown on illegal signs hanging from traffic posts and trees along county roadways.

The sign removal yesterday was part of an ongoing effort by the county to rid the county of blight.

More than 1,500 illegally posted signs have been removed during previous blitzes, according to county officials. Last year, the county doubled its long-standing $500 fine for hanging signs illegally in public rights of way and began the quarterly sign blitzes.

Placards advertising restaurants, help with foreclosures, temporary jobs and other services routinely line many of the county's roadways.

County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) called the illegal signs "litter on a stick," saying in a statement: "For years, we have encountered illegally posted signs along our roadways which causes blight throughout our communities."

Driver Who Backed Into Eatery Cited

The driver accused of backing her car across a parking lot and into a sushi restaurant in Gaithersburg on Monday -- sending six people to the hospital, including two with serious injuries -- was issued a traffic citation yesterday for unsafe backing, Montgomery County police said.

Claire Marie Bogosian, 66, of Montgomery Village was issued the citation, which carries a $75 fine and up to three points on her driver's license, said Officer Derek Baliles, a police spokesman.

Bogosian was leaving a parking space in front of the Express Cafe at the Shady Grove Center when she backed up across part of the parking lot, ran over the curb and sidewalk and crashed through the restaurant's plate-glass front window, mowing down tables and hitting the sushi counter.

No criminal charges were filed, Baliles said, because "there appears to be no intent."

VIRGINIA

Warner Urges Increase in Research

Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) called yesterday for public colleges and universities to increase their research and development projects and bring Virginia on par with other states.

Virginia's four-year schools should undertake $1 billion worth of sponsored research projects by the end of the decade, up from the current figure of $600 million, Warner told the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

A council report released yesterday shows that 12 of Virginia's 15 public four-year institutions lag behind public colleges nationwide in spending on research and public service. On average, Virginia institutions spend $38,752 on research per full-time faculty member, compared with $53,833 at peer institutions, the report shows.

"He was just an outstanding police officer. He's the kind of guy you'd want as your own son."

-- Maryland Transportation Authority Police Chief Gary McLhinney, talking about Officer Duke G. Aaron III, who was killed in an accident yesterday. -- Page B2

Compiled from reports by staff writers Karlyn Barker, Del Quentin Wilber, Avram Goldstein, Debbi Wilgoren, Allan Lengel, Matthew Mosk, Ovetta Wiggins and Darragh Johnson and the Associated Press.