Man's Suicide Threat Snarls Traffic

A man threatening to commit suicide by jumping from a ledge onto a busy thoroughfare snarled downtown traffic for about an hour yesterday morning before police were able to take him safely into custody, authorities said.

The incident began about 9 a.m. when the man, whose name and age were not released, threatened to jump from the 200 block of E Street NW into the southbound lanes of the Third Street Tunnel. Police closed off southbound traffic into the tunnel, and officers began trying to persuade the man not to jump, police said.

The man gave up about 10:30 a.m. and was taken to a hospital for evaluation, officials said. Police said he was not arrested or charged with a crime.


Small Bays Suffering, State Report Says

The small bays along Maryland's Atlantic Coast suffer from many of the same pollution-related problems that the Chesapeake Bay does, according to a report released yesterday by the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

In particular, the report found that animal manure, lawn fertilizer and runoff from sewage treatment plants were being washed into the bays, feeding blooms of harmful algae. These were blamed for reducing dissolved oxygen in the water, leading to fish kills and problems with crabs, oysters and sea grass.

The report found that residential development was a factor for several of the worst-hit bays, including Assawoman and Isle of Wight near Ocean City.

Fire Recruit's Death Prompts Changes

When Frederick County reopens its firefighter academy Monday, more than two years after the heatstroke death of a recruit, instructors aim to keep the trainees cooler.

The county has made numerous changes since Andrew Waybright's death to correct problems identified by safety regulators and a local board of inquiry. Chief among them is a better way of measuring the heat-stress danger level, communicated to students by color-coded flags flown from a pole near the entrance to the complex southeast of Frederick.

Each recruit will be issued a half-gallon water backpack, and a water-toting vehicle will follow recruits on fitness runs. The academy also has added a safety officer and a wellness administrator who will monitor the 27 recruits' health throughout the 17-week program.

"What happened in the past was past practice, and where we're headed from here is down a new road, and I think the safety and welfare of our employees is the first rule," said Richard Himes, chief of training for the Frederick County Fire Emergency Division.

The academy had no emergency plan when Waybright, 23, of Gettysburg, Pa., collapsed in July 2002, in humid, 84-degree heat near the end of an hour-long workout without water. The instructor, thinking Waybright was just tired out, refused help from two passersby who offered to call 911, according to the board of inquiry's report.

Suit Claims Yellow Lights Are Too Short

A Baltimore couple has filed a lawsuit against the city and its traffic light contractor, claiming that yellow lights are shorter than mandated minimums.

Nechema and Ari Koretzky have both been cited for running red lights, but they argue that they were caught on camera because the yellow lights lasted less than the three-second city, state and federal minimum, according to the complaint. The lawsuit argues that there is no incentive for the red light camera system to work properly because Affiliated Computer Services of Dallas is paid a percentage of the proceeds for every citation paid.

In a statement, Affiliated declined to comment on the case specifically but noted, "ACS maintains safety cameras nationwide for clients, but it is up to the individual jurisdictions to set the amber light timing."


Documents Sought in Snooping Case

Attorneys for Democratic lawmakers in Virginia, who are suing the state's Republican Party, have asked a federal judge to force U.S. Attorney Paul F. McNulty to turn over documents related to his office's investigation of alleged eavesdropping by the Republican Party's former executive director.

In briefs filed yesterday, the attorneys said McNulty, a Republican, has refused to hand over documents, citing privacy laws and laws that forbid disclosure of investigative and grand jury materials. The Democrats argue that McNulty is exceeding his authority to keep those documents private.

Edmund A. Matricardi III, the GOP's former top staff member, pleaded guilty to listening in on two telephone conference calls involving Democratic lawmakers in March 2002. Several other Republican operatives pleaded guilty to knowing about the eavesdropping.

Democrats filed a federal lawsuit in March seeking damages from Matricardi, the party and several other Republican officials. The case is scheduled to go to trial in December.

ACLU Warns Against Political Sign Limits

With the presidential race and some local campaigns underway, the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has warned localities against enforcing time restrictions on privately posted political campaign signs.

The state ACLU said yesterday that it sent letters to all 323 local governments in Virginia, reminding them that the General Assembly passed a law protecting the right of individuals to post campaign signs on their land. The law took effect July 1.

Kent Willis, executive director of the Virginia ACLU, said the statute "really does nothing more than codify the First Amendment right to post a sign with a political message on your property whenever you wish and for as long as you like."

"Now, however, when a local official tells someone to take down a campaign sign, the ACLU will not have to explain the Supreme Court rulings on the subject and then threaten a lawsuit," Willis said.

Willis said that in the last year, his group threatened to sue after Farmville and Culpeper residents were ordered to remove campaign signs posted beyond time limits set by the localities -- 30 days before elections in Farmville, 20 days in Culpeper. Both localities backed down, he said.

"It is simply what we absolutely have to do to avert disaster. This is just the first step. If we don't get this done, the region's in a whole lot of trouble."

-- Chris Zimmerman, Arlington's representative on Metro's board,

on the transit agency's strategy to raise $1.5 billion for

maintenance and repair of trains and buses. -- Page B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Del Quentin Wilber, David A. Fahrenthold and Michael D. Shear and the Associated Press.