THE DISTRICT

Threat to Embassy Proves Harmless

A threatening letter that forced about 50 employees to remain shuttered for several hours in the Israeli Embassy on Thursday night contained foot powder, D.C. fire officials said yesterday.

The letter, which included rambling anti-Semitic passages, spilled its powdery white substance when it was opened by an embassy employee about 5 p.m. Authorities said they quickly traced the letter to an inmate in North Carolina who has a history of mental illness.

Two employees and four D.C. firefighters were decontaminated at the scene. Shortly before 10 p.m. Thursday, employees were allowed to go home because authorities did not believe the letter contained a dangerous substance. Later tests confirmed the powder was harmless, fire officials said.

VIRGINIA

Attorney General Appeals Abortion Ruling

Virginia Attorney General Judith Williams Jadgmann asked a federal appeals court yesterday to reverse its decision that struck down Virginia's law barring a late-term abortion procedure.

The decision by the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit was "fundamentally flawed,'' Jadgmann said in a statement.

A three-judge panel this month threw out the law -- which made it a crime for doctors to perform the procedure opponents call partial birth infanticide -- because it lacks an exception to safeguard a woman's health.

Jadgmann asked all 13 judges to hear the case.

Early-Morning Crash Kills McLean Driver

A McLean man was killed early yesterday when he drove his pickup truck off Dolley Madison Boulevard in the Langley area and crashed into two trees, Fairfax County police said.

The driver was Thomas Meisel, 36, of the 6000 block of Orris Street. Police said he was driving north on Dolley Madison near Waverly Way about midnight when his 2004 Toyota Tundra hit a street sign, spun around and slid into a tree, then bounced into another tree head-on.

Meisel was pronounced dead at the scene. There were no passengers in his truck, and no other cars were involved. Investigators do not believe Meisel was wearing his seat belt. The investigation is continuing into why he drove off the road.

MARYLAND

Towson Receives Record Gift

Towson University has announced a $10.2 million gift, the largest in the school's history and one that university President Robert L. Caret said will transform the science and math programs.

From now on, the College of Science and Mathematics will be known as the Jess and Mildred Fisher College of Science and Mathematics, for the late real estate developer and his wife, who established the Robert M. Fisher Memorial Foundation in memory of their son.

Jess Fisher attended the Maryland State Normal School in the 1930s, as Towson was then known. The money will be used for an endowed chair, scholarships and an endowment for the college.

Jail Inmate Collapses in Cell, Dies

An inmate at the Montgomery County Detention Center who had recently been convicted of rape collapsed in his cell Thursday night and died, police said.

Charles Raines, 42, of the District collapsed about 11:45 p.m. while brushing his teeth, Montgomery police said yesterday. Corrections officials and fire and rescue personnel performed CPR, and Raines was taken to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 12:30 yesterday morning, police said. Police said a preliminary investigation showed no signs of foul play.

Raines was convicted in absentia of rape June 1 after he failed to appear May 24 for his trial. Montgomery sheriff's deputies captured him June 8.

Democrat Named to Fill House Seat

Former Baltimore City Council member Catherine E. Pugh has been appointed to the House of Delegates in the 40th District, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s office announced.

Pugh will succeed Tony E. Fulton, 53, who died May 23 of a cancer-related illness.

Pugh, a Democrat, served on the City Council from 1999 to 2004. She is president of C.E. Pugh & Co. and has bachelor's and master's degrees from Morgan State University.

"Catherine Pugh has represented the citizens of Baltimore City as a Council member for years," Ehrlich said in a statement. "I am confident that she will equally represent the citizens of the city in her new capacity as delegate and look forward to working with her in the upcoming session of the Maryland General Assembly."

A committee of Democratic officials responsible for selecting a replacement for Fulton was deadlocked, leaving the decision with the governor.

the region

Group Loses Bid to Stop Killing of Swans

A federal judge in the District has denied an animal protection group's request to stop the planned killing of mute swans blamed by wildlife officials for destroying Chesapeake Bay grasses.

The Fund for Animals had sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the killing while the case was tried in court, but U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan denied the motion Wednesday, saying that the state was overwhelmingly likely to win.

In December, a last-minute addition to a federal spending bill cleared the way for Maryland to resume the killing of mute swans. Under the change, mute swans and as many as 94 other nonnative species are no longer protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The fund filed suit in April seeking to restore federal protection to mute swans and prevent the killing of the birds in Maryland without a permit.

The fund and some Eastern Shore residents sued in U.S. District Court in Washington, asking that the birds be re-designated as protected by law.

Heather Lynch, a spokeswoman for Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, said the ruling means the department can proceed with the killing of the swans, scheduled for Monday.

"The Fourth of July was America's independence day, not ours. It wasn't until almost a century later that the nation finally realized that 'We need to let these folks be free, too.' "

-- Richard Bingham of Landover on today's commemoration of Juneteenth, marking the day in 1865 when the last slaves in Texas were notified that they had been emancipated. -- B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Del Quentin Wilber, Susan Kinzie, Jerry Markon, Tom Jackman and David Snyder and the Associated Press.