Zoo Festival Spotlights Latin America

The National Zoo will hold its annual Fiesta Musical tomorrow, a free celebration of Latin American wildlife and culture. The event, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., will feature live music and dance performances, traditional Hispanic cuisine and, throughout the park, special animal-related activities and arts and crafts for children.

Highlights include keeper talks about the anaconda, Amazon spotted side-necked turtle, leaf-cutter ants, scarlet ibis, black howler monkey and other creatures. The zoo's scientists will be available to discuss research being conducted in Latin America. Also, visitors will be able to see an ultralight plane and meet the pilot who is helping to track the migration of the monarch butterfly.

Beltway Ramp to Open at Rte. 1 in Va.

Motorists navigating around construction at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge will have less congestion next week when a ramp to the Capital Beltway opens.

The ramp will carry motorists heading north on Route 1 to the Beltway's outer loop. It will allow Route 1 northbound traffic to merge directly onto the Beltway, without having to merge with Route 1 southbound traffic. A detour has been in effect since February, creating congestion in the area. The ramp is scheduled to open in time for Monday's afternoon rush hour.

Transportation officials warn that there is no merge lane at the end of the ramp, so motorists will need to yield to Beltway traffic. The ramp will put traffic on the Beltway about 500 feet ahead of the previous ramp.

Separate Security Incidents Delay Metro

Two security-related incidents curtailed service temporarily on two Metrorail lines yesterday, authorities said.

Red Line service through Van Ness-UDC Station was halted at 11:16 p.m. for almost an hour after a train passenger made a bomb threat, a Metro spokeswoman said. A passenger said it followed a dispute. The train was searched, and no bomb was found.

Earlier, Green Line service through the College Park station was halted for about 20 minutes at 4:45 p.m. after discovery of what appeared to be a suspicious package. The package was found to be harmless.


College Barred From Using Fairfax Field

The Virginia Supreme Court yesterday reversed a lower court decision that allowed Marymount University soccer and lacrosse games on a publicly owned field at Lewinsville Park in McLean.

The decision would appear to prevent Marymount's teams from continuing to play on the field, barring a special action by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Through an arrangement with McLean Youth Soccer, the Arlington-based school had agreed to split the cost of building and maintaining the field in exchange for playing time for its NCAA home games. The arrangement angered members of the West Lewinsville Heights Citizen's Association, who said the neighborhood park was being transformed into a collegiate facility.

The state Supreme Court reversed the decision on a technicality: Fairfax County missed a 30-day deadline to appeal a 2003 county Board of Zoning Appeals ruling.

Gay Group to Endorse, Fund Candidates

Equality Virginia, the state's largest gay advocacy group, has created a nonpartisan political action committee.

The PAC will focus on state delegate races this year, directing money toward as many as 20 candidates identified as supporting legislation that is helpful to gay people, said David Lampo, chairman of Equality Virginia's political committee.

The group will select candidates to endorse at an Oct. 1 meeting and hopes to distribute about $10,000 to candidates before the Nov. 8 election.

This year, Virginia legislators overwhelmingly approved a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. They must approve it a second time before it can appear on the ballot, which could happen as early as November 2006.


Detours Ahead for Suitland Parkway

Suitland Parkway between Alabama Avenue and Naylor Road SE will be closed at night for construction work starting tomorrow, the D.C. Department of Transportation said yesterday. The closures -- from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., except Fridays and Saturdays -- could last through Sept. 28.

Westbound Suitland Parkway traffic will be detoured onto Naylor Road. Eastbound traffic will be detoured onto Alabama Avenue and then back to Naylor Road.

Traffic is being detoured to allow construction of the new Southern Avenue bridge over the parkway.


Lanham Bible College Installs New Leader

Riverdale Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro was filled yesterday with a multiracial gathering of professors, students and clergy from across the area to witness the inauguration of Larry A. Mercer as the first black president of the Washington Bible College/Capital Bible Seminary.

Mercer becomes head of a 100-year-old school and seminary that is a training ground for evangelical and conservative religious thought.

Mercer said during his speech that he wants to keep the focus on spiritual growth and development of students but also wants to have a greater impact in society because of the proximity of the Lanham school to the nation's capital.

Rally Backs Sojourner-Douglass Campus

Sojourner-Douglass College, a historically black school based in Baltimore, might have to close its campus in Anne Arundel County.

About 300 people attended a rally Thursday for the campus in Edgewater, just south of Annapolis, where a classroom building and parking lot were built last year.

A county judge ruled in 2004 that the construction did not violate zoning laws, as some neighbors contended, but the Court of Special Appeals overturned the ruling. It said the campus violated a 1988 covenant that banned development on the parcel, except for education buildings owned by county schools. The decision means the college buildings could be torn down.

"These acts threaten the core freedoms that make university life what it is."

-- University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III, speaking to students yesterday about nine racist incidents that have occurred since the academic year began. -- B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Karlyn Barker, D'Vera Cohn, Clarence Williams, Martin Weil, Hamil R. Harris and C. Woodrow Irvin and the Associated Press.