THE REGION

Discovery Channel Honors Young Scientist

Shannon McClintock, a 14-year-old from San Diego, has been named the Discovery Channel Young Scientist of the Year. To earn the distinction and a $15,000 scholarship, he completed a project on traction and friction and participated in a four-day program for young scientists this week in the Washington area.

The second-place winner, Blake Thompson, 12, of Gainesville, Fla., performed an experiment with fire ants.

The students were among 40 finalists selected from thousands to participate in the program, the sixth annual Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge, which this year celebrated the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's premier year of discovery.

Prepare for Ladybugs' Hibernation

Those orange and red ladybugs you're seeing on the sides of buildings are just looking for a place to spend the winter. If they like your place, they might join you by the thousands, perhaps in your attic or inside your walls.

Do not take extreme action, warns University of Maryland entomologist Michael Raupp. "If you smash them, they're going to leave an orange stain, and they're going to stink," he said. He recommends caulking and sealing to keep them out. If they get in, use a vacuum, but gently, or a black-light trap to catch them.

Introduced to the American South beginning in the 1970s to devours aphids and other crop pests, the Asian multicolored ladybird beetle has spread across the continental United States and is especially happy in the suburbs. It likes to spend the winter tucked into the crevice of a cliff face, but a light-colored building with good exposure to sunlight will suffice.

MARYLAND

State's First Flu Case in Baltimore County

Maryland health officials announced the state's first flu case of the year yesterday and reminded residents to take extra care to prevent the spread of the virus because of the vaccine shortage.

The first case was confirmed in an elderly Baltimore County resident, making Maryland one of nine states to report cases this fall, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced.

Measures to prevent the spread of the flu include frequent hand washing, staying home from work when ill, and avoiding contact with those who have flu symptoms.

Half of the expected U.S. supply of flu vaccine is not available because contamination shut down a British supplier's plant. As a result, health officials are asking that only people in high-risk groups get the flu shot.

Staff Cuts at Pr. George's Hospital Center

Dimensions Healthcare System Inc., the nonprofit that runs Prince George's Hospital Center, will reduce its staffing by as many as 125 employees, officials said yesterday.

The staff cutbacks will be phased in over the next four to six weeks, hospital officials said.

"It is a difficult decision whenever we take an action that will affect our employees. However, our review made it clear that bringing our financial performance into line . . . had to be part of our focus," said Tony Jones, interim president of Dimensions Healthcare System, in a statement yesterday.

The plan, which is expected to save the system about $8 million, will also include leaving vacant positions unfilled, decreasing the hospital's use of temporary workers and reducing overtime.

Mother, Girl Injured After Car Hits Them

A mother and daughter were hit by a car and critically injured last night as they crossed Indian Head Highway in Forest Heights, Prince George's County police said.

Cpl. Diane Richardson, a police spokeswoman, said the mother, 35, and her elementary-school-age daughter were in the crosswalk at Indian Head and Talbert Drive about 7:15 p.m. when they were struck by a Mercedes-Benz. She said the two were taken by helicopter to different hospitals. The driver remained at the scene.

VIRGINIA

Loudoun Puts Back Bricks at School

The Loudoun County School Board has voted not to appeal a federal court decision that ruled the system discriminated against several families when officials removed bricks engraved with Christian crosses from a walkway in front of the school.

The families bought the bricks as part of a fundraiser for the parents group at Potomac Falls High School in Sterling. They were offered the chance to inscribe the bricks with their child's name and, for an extra $5, with a symbol.

After a parent complained, school officials removed bricks with crosses, and several families sued in response. Judge James C. Cacheris ruled Oct. 1 that the school system engaged in "viewpoint discrimination" by allowing families to buy bricks with secular symbols but removing those with religious ones.

By a unanimous vote Tuesday night, School Board members agreed not to challenge the judge's ruling. A school official said the bricks have already been replaced.

Newborn Left at Stafford Residence

Stafford County officials were trying to track down the mother of a newborn boy abandoned on a doorstep in the Patriots Landing subdivision Wednesday.

The baby, who apparently was left at the home between 8 and 8:30 p.m., was probably less than a day old when discovered and was in good condition, Sheriff Charles Jett said.

Jett said the boy is Asian, weighs 6 pounds, 8 ounces, and is 20 inches long. He was wrapped in women's clothing -- a tan corduroy jacket and a lime-green T-shirt -- and a wooden charm with Asian characters that Jett said mean "born in the month of April." The baby is in the custody of child protective services.

Fairfax Homeless Man Beaten by Youth

A 51-year-old homeless man was severely beaten Wednesday night by a youth who attacked him as he crossed a street in the Engleside area, Fairfax County police said yesterday.

The victim, who police know to be homeless, was found unresponsive and bleeding at 6:30 p.m. in the 8700 block of Sacramento Drive. He was flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

The suspect is described as a white male, about 17 years old, 6 feet tall and 170 pounds, with short brown hair. He was wearing a black leather jacket, tan hooded shirt and jeans. Anyone with information is asked to call Fairfax County police at 703-691-2131.

"It's worth having to watch your step. But they clean up after each little . . . incident."

-- Mary Bucklew, who works in downtown Washington, on the scene around MCI Center during this week's horse show. -- Page B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Rebecca Dana, Ovetta Wiggins, Cameron W. Barr, Rosalind S. Helderman, Michelle Boorstein, Leef Smith and Allan Lengel and the Associated Press.