PandaMania Inspires Photo Contest

The brightly colored panda statues on scores of Washington streets will star in a citywide photo shoot during the next month.

The D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, which runs the PandaMania public art exhibit, is launching a contest for the best photographs of the five-foot-tall statues, which will be auctioned off Oct. 9 to raise money for arts programming.

Photos can be entered in three categories: "Separated at Birth" (a picture of a panda and person who closely resemble each other), "Cutest" and "Most Creative," the arts commission said. Submissions from photographers ages 6 to 12 will be judged separately.

Sponsors include the commission, the National Zoo and Fuji Film, a major supporter of the zoo's live panda exhibit. Contest entry forms are available online at, and They are to be available at the zoo and at some panda sculptures starting next week.

Since their May unveiling, the 150 panda statues have been popular with camera-toters. At least 18 have been vandalized or defaced. One was reported stolen last week.


Discussions on New Treatment for Water

Two public meetings have been scheduled this month in which city and federal officials will answer residents' questions about a new chemical treatment to all D.C. drinking water beginning Aug. 23 intended to reduce widespread high levels of lead.

The chemical, an orthophosphate, is widely used elsewhere and has been tried since June in a section of upper Northwest. Environmental Protection Agency officials approved citywide use this week, saying no problems were experienced.

The first meeting will be Aug. 19 in the basement of Congress Heights United Methodist Church, 421 Alabama Ave. SE. The second will be Aug. 24 in meeting room A-5 of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G St. NW. Both meetings will hold an open house from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., with a formal presentation followed by a question-and-answer session from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Top Superintendent Candidate Interviewed

Maurice A. Jones, the 39-year-old Virginia state official who has become a top candidate for the city's school superintendent job, was interviewed yesterday by a search committee that includes high-ranking city and school officials and parent and union representatives.

Jones, a lawyer who has headed the Virginia Department of Social Services since 2002, was first interviewed Monday by Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D), Board of Education President Peggy Cooper Cafritz and others on a panel that is to recommend a candidate to the board. The panel's seven members sit on the search committee. Some of the other search committee members had said they felt slighted not being consulted earlier.

Committee members said they made no decision yesterday and plan to meet Monday.


Highland Company Proposes Wind Farms

A company based in Highland County wants to build 20 wind turbines on two ridges in the mountainous region.

Supporters of wind power say the ridges in Highland, west of Harrisonburg, are ideal because some of the strongest winds on the East Coast blow there and the county has a sparse population -- less than 2,500 people, according to the Census Bureau.

Opposition has arisen to the plans of the company, New Highland Wind, since three test turbines were installed in the past five years. Carolyn Pohowsky, executive director of the Highland County Chamber of Commerce, said the wind farms will hurt the growing tourism industry. Some residents say that the wind farms will spoil views and kill migratory birds.

The proposal must be approved by the boards of zoning appeals and supervisors, then the State Corporation Commission.

Surprise Drops In on Pr. William Resident

A Prince William County resident was startled earlier this week when a strange object dropped into her home.

A police spokesman said the five- to eight-pound cylindrical object crashed through the roof and ceiling of the Bristow home on Tuesday. No one was injured.

Police said they first checked with the Federal Aviation Administration to see if it came from an airplane. But then they learned that the source: A cable broke on an industrial Dumpster, flinging a part into the air.

Professor Leaving Over Anti-Gay Law

A biology professor at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg said she quit her job recently because of a new state law restricting the rights of same-sex couples.

In a letter to Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger, Lynn Adler said she will leave the university to take a position with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst this fall.

She said she is "sad and sorry" to be leaving the school but felt the state's laws make it difficult for her to have a long-term future in the state. Her partner, who works part time at the school, does not have health insurance, and the state will not recognize them both as parents if they decide to have children, she said.

Adler said she decided to leave because of a law enacted this year prohibiting contracts between same-sex couples that purport to bestow the obligations of marriage. Many gay Virginians have threatened to leave the state in response to the law, considered by some to be the harshest anti-gay measure in the country.


Strengthening Sewage Overflow Alerts

A state agency is proposing regulations that describe specific information that must be provided to the public and local officials after a significant sewage overflow. The regulations would cover the state's roughly 350 wastewater treatment facilities.

"These regulations will strengthen our effort to ensure that all concerned parties are properly informed about sewage overflows," said Environment Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick.

The Maryland Department of the Environment began requiring reports of all sewage overflows through a directive issued in October 2000. The department and local health directors developed a joint guidance document for public notification decisions in January 2001.

The proposed regulations also address notifications to the public by the owner or operator of a sewer system or treatment plant.

"I can tell you I've never felt so close to death in my life."

-- Beverly Sjoblad, a customer at a Hyattsville bank, after she and another woman fled through a rear exit when they heard gunfire in front of the bank, where gunmen had ambushed an armored car courier. -- Page B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers D'Vera Cohn , Sewell Chan, Martin Weil and Debbi Wilgoren and the Associated Press.