Winds Close Washington Monument

The Washington Monument was closed for about three hours yesterday because of high winds that made the obelisk sway slightly and left tourists feeling queasy.

The National Park Service shuts down the monument when gusts exceed 35 mph. That was the case just after noon yesterday, when tours were halted until the wind died down about three hours later, said Bill Line, a spokesman for the Park Service.

Though the slight swaying of the monument at the 500-foot level frightens people, Line said the biggest safety threat is at the base of the monument, which is on a high, unprotected knoll. "That surrounding land, it gets windier than the rest of the city, and in the past, children and elderly people have actually been knocked on the ground there," Line said.

Metro Ridership Rose 5% in August

Metro reported yesterday that average weekday subway ridership for August was 5 percent higher than in August 2004. About 672,000 trips were made on Metrorail per day on average. The number of riders climbed in every time slot, according to Metro, but the biggest percentage jump came in evening ridership, which increased by about 10 percent.

Revenue was up, too, by about $2.2 million over projections. But officials warn that higher prices for diesel fuel and in other areas are expected to have a dramatic impact on future revenue.

THE district

Residents to Get Disaster Guide

District households will receive copies of the recently updated Family Preparedness Guide this weekend complete with new information on evacuation procedures that would be used in a terrorist attack or natural disaster.

The guide, provided by the D.C. Emergency Management Agency, was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. More than 1 million copies have been distributed.

The guide includes new sections on the District's four-part citizen alert system and emergency procedures on the use of Metrobus and Metrorail. Also included is information on creating a family emergency plan and kit.

The guide will be distributed throughout the weekend in bundled mail delivery and to subscribers of The Washington Post in the Sunday newspaper.


Vote to Oust Pr. George's PTA Chief Fails

The president of the Prince George's County Council of PTAs survived an attempt to oust him this week in a vote at the state headquarters of the PTA in Glen Burnie.

County PTA President Darren Brown will continue to hold the office he won in an internal election in the spring. Brown has drawn fire for what critics called an overly aggressive leadership style and for his role in a school uniform dispute at Charles H. Flowers High School in Springdale.

At least two of Brown's critics resigned from the county PTA's executive board after the attempt to oust him Wednesday night. The critics, Walter Searcy and Mary Lehman, said six members of the 12-person board voted to remove Brown, falling short of the two-thirds required.

Searcy quit his position as first vice president of the county PTA and Lehman quit hers as a PTA district representative for the Laurel area. Brown did not respond to e-mail and telephone messages seeking comment.

Utility Limits in Land Reserve Advance

A Montgomery County Council committee voted yesterday to approve a proposal to ban the extension of public water and sewer lines to churches and other nonprofit organizations in the 93,000-acre agricultural reserve. The unanimous vote of the three-member Transportation and Environment Committee means the proposal will go before the full council this month.

Churches and nonprofits are the only property owners that can receive public water and sewer service in the county's agricultural reserve, where development is strictly limited. But with available land scarce in southern Montgomery, several churches have built large complexes in the reserve.

The committee, along with the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, did not vote on another proposal that would prohibit landowners from building on more than 15 percent of their property in the reserve and on more than 20 percent of their land in other rural zones.

Bias Rejected in Death Penalty Appeal

The Maryland Court of Appeals yesterday upheld the death sentence given to Vernon Evans Jr. for the 1983 contract killing of two Baltimore County motel clerks.

Evans was sentenced to die for the murders of Scott Piechowicz and his sister-in-law, Susan Kennedy, who were gunned down in the lobby of the motel. He admitted that he was paid $9,000 by drug dealer Anthony Grandison, who had wanted Piechowicz and his wife dead because he believed they were going to testify against him in a criminal trial. Kennedy was killed when Evans mistook her for her sister.

The majority opinion rejected Evans's contention that his conviction should be overturned because of a state study showing that black assailants who killed white victims were more likely to be sentenced to death than other killers, especially if the crimes were committed in Baltimore County.

'Upskirt' Photos Law to Be Reintroduced

Bills that would ban taking and distributing "upskirt" and "downblouse" photos without consent will be introduced again during next year's legislative session, a Maryland lawmaker announced yesterday.

Under current state law, it is illegal to take photographs or video with prurient intent in places where someone has a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a store changing room. However, public areas are not covered under the law, and courts have ruled that women do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place. One of the bills proposed by Del. Neil F. Quinter (D-Howard) would add that protection, while the other would make it a crime to electronically distribute the photos or videos.

The bill that would ban the taking of the photos was passed by the House of Delegates during the last legislative session but did not come up for a Senate vote before the session ended. The other bill did not come up for a vote in the House, Quinter said.

"This is the first time that I can recall where we've had a crime committed while the person was using a cell phone."

-- Loudoun County sheriff's spokesman Kraig Troxell, on a young woman

who has robbed four Wachovia bank branches in Northern Virginia

while seemingly immersed in cell phone chats. -- A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Nick Anderson, Petula Dvorak, Nancy Trejos and Yolanda Woodlee and the Associated Press.