Program Overstated Bay Progress

Officials Say Computer Model's Estimates Off

The Chesapeake Bay Program's regular reports since the mid-1980s on the flow of major pollutants into North America's largest estuary have significantly overstated the environmental achievements, scientists and program officials said.

The estimates of a 40 percent pollution reduction since 1985 were based on a computer model that program officials now say was distorted by overly generous assumptions.

U.S. Geological Survey data from water samples taken from the mid-1980s through 2003 indicate that observed concentrations of the two targeted pollutants, nitrogen and phosphorus, showed no decline in most of the major rivers spilling into the bay.

Also, research by two University of Maryland scientists found that the volume of oxygen-depleted water in the Chesapeake Bay, a key indicator of bay health, has shown no significant improvement since the mid-1980s.

Life Sentence in Best Friend's Death

Howard County Teenager Put Cyanide in Soda

A Howard County judge sentenced Ryan Furlough, 19, to life in prison in the poisoning death of his best friend but left open the possibility of parole. Furlough, of Ellicott City, was convicted in May of the January 2003 killing of Benjamin Vassiliev, 17. The two were classmates at Centennial High School.

Prosecutors said that Furlough planned the killing for months and that he felt slighted by his friend's failure to give him presents on his birthday and Christmas and threatened by Vassiliev's relationship with his girlfriend.

The defense said Furlough's judgment had been clouded by the effects of an antidepressant drug he was taking in the months before he spiked his friend's Vanilla Coke with cyanide.

Montgomery Rebuts Family's Claim

County Says Teen Didn't Try to Enroll in School

After Michael Francisco Barrios died in the grinding machinery of a mulch truck in May, his relatives suggested that the Wheaton teenager would not have been on that job and would still be alive if his efforts to register for public school had not been thwarted.

But an investigation by the Montgomery County school system found that he had never tried to enroll.

According to school officials, Barrios's mother sought to enroll only her 11-year-old daughter and never indicated that she had a son she wanted in school.

Ha-Ha-Hallelujahs Heard

Christian Comedy Clubs Gaining Ground

At a Beltsville strip mall, the Synergy comedy club is bringing audiences a new perspective on humor, far different from the raw jokes and language often part of performances at such venues. Some call the new brand of humor "inspirational" or "Christian" -- while many insist that it should be known as "just clean."

For years, dozens of comedians have worked the Washington region's gospel comedy scene. But now a small circuit of Christian comedy clubs has emerged.

Across the Region

Crash Kills Officer; SmarTrip Sales to Continue

* Liberal political leaders are planning an October summit of like-minded members of the Maryland Democratic Party in an effort to prepare for the presidential election and draft a blueprint for the 2006 governor's race.

* Duke G. Aaron III, 29, a three-time officer of the year with the Maryland Transportation Authority, was killed when a pickup truck whose operator was driving with a suspended license smashed into his patrol car on the shoulder of Route 50. Aaron was inside the car, completing paperwork on a citation he had just written for another motorist.

* Metro is rushing the production of tens of thousands of SmarTrip cards used for Metrobus fares and for parking in Metro's lots and will keep selling them despite dwindling supplies, reversing a decision the transit agency made last week.

Celebration time: Ben Malmgren, 6, rides in the lead car of the parade in honor of Glen Echo's 100th birthday.