Track-Sharing May Slow Metro Trains

Metro has scheduled work this weekend on all five subway lines, which could mean delays of up to 10 minutes.

The work was to begin last night at 10, when Orange Line trains were to be reduced to one track between East and West Falls Church. The line will continue running on one track until Monday morning.

Blue and Yellow Line trains also will use a single track for a portion of their route until tomorrow night. The affected track lies south of Braddock Road.

The Red Line will use a single track in different stretches. Tonight, trains will run on one line between Medical Center and Grosvenor; tomorrow night, one track will be used from Twinbrook to White Flint.

On the Green Line, trains will share a track between Greenbelt and Fort Totten today and tomorrow from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.


Court Refuses to Delay Execution

The Maryland Court of Appeals yesterday denied a request by Wesley Eugene Baker for a stay of his execution, scheduled for sometime next week.

The decision leaves Baker with narrowing legal options as he awaits execution by lethal injection for the 1991 murder of a woman at a Baltimore County shopping center. Baker still has emergency appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court, and he has asked Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) for clemency.

A spokesman for Ehrlich said the governor continues to review the case.

Baker could be executed as early as Monday, although state corrections officials have not released a specific time and date for when he will be put to death.


Tax-Free Shopping Ends Tomorrow

This is the last weekend that shoppers in the District can buy clothing, footwear and accessories that cost $100 or less without paying the city's 5.75 percent sales tax.

The 10-day sales tax holiday, which began the Friday after Thanksgiving, will end tomorrow.

D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), who wrote the law establishing two tax-free periods in the District, said the timing was designed to help consumers save on holiday gifts.

"As we head into the weekend, it's a good time to remind people that, by shopping in the District, they will save money, thanks to the tax holiday," Schwartz said. "You could literally spend thousands of dollars and pay no sales taxes."

Schwartz also used the opportunity to tout other advantages of shopping in the District.

"We have great stores in the city and, as always, free on-street parking in most areas in the evenings and on the weekends, so I hope people will come discover our retailers, both big and small," she said.


FEMA Drops Efforts to Recoup Funds

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said yesterday that the agency would no longer try to recover flood damage assistance given out to some Fairfax County homeowners whose residences were damaged during Hurricane Isabel in September 2003.

U.S. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) said in a statement that FEMA had agreed to cease efforts to recoup money from Belle View condominium residents who were not insured beyond what was provided under the condo association's policy.

For those who had already complied with FEMA's earlier order to return the assistance, a process is being formulated to give the money back, according to the statement. The 900-unit condominium complex, just off the George Washington Memorial Parkway south of Alexandria, sustained nearly $6 million in damages from the hurricane. FEMA paid about $140,000 to 147 homeowners.

N.Va. Road, Rail Plan to Be Revealed

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority will unveil its long-term plan for the region at an open house and public hearing Tuesday in Falls Church.

Residents will be able to comment on the agency's vision for road and rail improvements over the next 25 years. The authority's goal for its program, TransAction 2030, is to come up with a consensus on what projects to build in specific corridors.

The event will be held at George C. Marshall High School, 7731 Leesburg Pike, a short walk from the West Falls Church Metro station.

The open house will run from 5 to 7:30 p.m., when the public comment period will begin. The first 25 attendees will receive free Metro SmarTrip cards.

Santa Shielded From 'Sexy' Mall Display

The management at a mall in Roanoke have put up a black curtain between the shopping mall Santa and the nearby Victoria's Secret after getting complaints from parents about the store's window display.

The display includes a leggy mannequin in a hot-pink thong and a bra and the message "Give Me Sexy." Management at the Valley View Mall hung the curtain Thursday to shield Santa's chair -- and his young visitors -- from the displays.

Mall spokeswoman Mandy York said mall officials do not have control over what stores put in their windows.

This fall, the Victoria's Secret at Tysons Corner Center received complaints from some shoppers that the store's window displays were too suggestive.

Lawmakers Urged Not to Close School

About 200 community leaders, parents and alumni of the Virginia School for the Deaf, Blind and Multi-Disabled at Hampton told legislators this week that they should keep the school open.

The meeting was held by an advisory commission studying the issue.

Speakers told lawmakers that parents and students would face hardships if the state was to close the Hampton school and transfer the students to the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind in Staunton. They said the Hampton school's roots run deep in the area's black community.

The commission voted to make a recommendation when it meets next month.

The State Board of Education did not comply with the General Assembly's order this year to consolidate the schools because it would cost more than the $61.5 million earmarked for the project.

"People are very casual about this river and constantly underestimate it."

-- Kevin D. Brandt, superintendent of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, on the dangers of the Potomac River. -- B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Steven Ginsberg, Jamie Stockwell and Yolanda Woodlee and the Associated Press.