Panda Sculpture Swiped From NW Street

A painted panda statue weighing 900 pounds appears to have been stolen over the weekend from its post near the Washington Hilton -- the 19th sculpture preyed upon since the District's PandaMania public art project was launched in May.

"Climbing Pandas" by Zora Janasova was reported missing from Connecticut and Florida avenues NW on Monday evening. The five-foot-tall sculpture features a series of small pandas ascending narrow ladders, atop a vivid background of red, orange and yellow.

"Somebody has to know where it is," said Alexandra J. MacMaster, PandaMania project manager for the D.C. Commission on the Arts.

People with information on the statue's whereabouts can call D.C. police at 202-727-9099 or the Commission on the Arts at 202-724-5613. A $1,000 reward is offered.

MacMaster said the arts commission will consider taking all the pandas off the street if more are stolen. Since the display began, one panda was burned and three were defaced by graffiti. Fourteen have had ears, limbs or other attachments broken off.

The statues are supposed to be on display until Sept. 11, then auctioned Oct. 9 to raise money for arts programs.

Missing 13-Year-Old Girl Sought

Authorities are seeking a 13-year-old girl who vanished Wednesday from her middle school in Southeast Washington, D.C. police said yesterday.

Tianca Lyles was dropped off for class at John Philip Sousa Middle School about 2:30 p.m., police said. When a parent arrived to pick her up, Tianca could not be found.

Tianca has a scar on the left side of her face and is 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighs about 135 pounds, is African American and has black hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a white T-shirt with a photo on the front and a blue skirt. Anyone with information about her whereabouts is urged to call police at 202-727-9099.


Ridge Asked to Issue Airport Security Plan

Sixteen members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on Wednesday urging the release of proposed security guidelines that would allow small planes to use Reagan National Airport again.

Congress has directed Ridge to develop and implement a plan to return general aviation to the airport, which handled 60,000 such flights a year before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The lawmakers said they understood that Ridge is committed to keeping the airport closed to small aircraft through Dec. 31.

"This information will enable [general aviation] operators to move forward in complying with the security plan, so they will be fully prepared," lawmakers wrote. "We see no security threat in educating industry as to what its future responsibilities entail."

Northern Virginia Reps. Thomas M. Davis III (R) and James P. Moran Jr. (D) and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) signed the letter.

Century-Old Elm at Capitol to Be Felled

A favorite American elm tree estimated to be 125 to 150 years old will be cut down near the south entrance of the U.S. Capitol because decay has hollowed out its trunk, and the tree is a potential threat to the safety of anyone who walks under it, the Office of the Architect of the Capitol announced yesterday.

Cuttings from the Cameron elm -- named for Sen. Simon Cameron (R-Pa.), who stopped a crew preparing to remove the tree in 1875 as part of Frederick Law Olmsted's plan for the grounds -- will be used to plant seedlings elsewhere near the Capitol. The tree, which lost a large limb two years ago, will be removed immediately.

Urgent Call Issued for O-Negative Blood

Officials with Inova Blood Donor Services, which provides blood to 15 hospitals across the Washington region, is in desperate need of donors following the treatment of a patient that depleted the already critically low stores of O-negative blood, the universal donor blood type.

Officials said they like to have 150 units of O-negative on the shelf but have just 30 units. They added yesterday that blood stores at other area hospitals are also so low that more cannot be bought.

Potential donors are asked to call Inova Blood Donor Services at 866-BLOOD-SAVES to arrange a donation.


Woman Killed in Two-Car Leesburg Crash

A 33-year-old Prince William County woman was killed Wednesday night in Leesburg in a car crash caused by a driver who ran a red light, Leesburg police said yesterday.

Dana L. Andrews of Haymarket was driving west on the Route 15 bypass about 8:20 p.m. in a 2003 Toyota when she entered the intersection with Sycolin Road and struck a 1995 Chevrolet, police said. Andrews died at the scene, police said. David W. Brangard, 38, of Leesburg, the driver of the Chevrolet, suffered non-life-threatening injuries, according to Lt. Jeff Dube, a Leesburg police spokesman.

Dube said Brangard had been involved in a fender-bender moments before the crash and apparently drove through the red light instead of stopping to speak to the other driver in that accident.


Employee Accuses Agency of Bias in Firing

A woman whose sexual harassment complaint led to the resignation of a top state law enforcement officer has been fired by the Maryland Transit Administration, leading her to accuse the agency of retaliation.

Olga Herrera, 38, of Nottingham, Md., said she was first demoted from her $48,000 job as administrative assistant shortly after she filed harassment charges against Natural Resources Police Chief Scott A. Sewell in December. Sewell resigned after the complaint.

Herrera said agency officials told her to move out of her office and reassigned her to another department without giving her a desk after she filed the original complaint. She said she was forced to work in a stairwell or sit on her supervisor's floor to do a few routine tasks. Herrera said she was terminated June 22.

Richard Scher, an MTA spokesman, said state personnel rules prevent him from commenting on Herrera's complaint.

"I'm sure the Taiwanese government had plans for political change when they started this program. Little did they know it's for college kids to hook up, party and drink."

-- Pat Tien of Arlington, on the Taiwanese summer program he

participated in, part of an effort to connect U.S.-born offspring

with their parents' homeland. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Debbi Wilgoren, Del Quentin Wilber, Spencer S. Hsu, Leef Smith and Maria Glod and the Associated Press.