THE REGION

Foundations' Grants Rose Last Year

Private foundations in the Washington area increased grant amounts 11.5 percent in 2004 from 2003, according to a survey released yesterday by the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, an organization of local foundations.

It said total grants rose to $595.2 million in 2004 from $533.8 million in 2003, demonstrating that foundations had recovered from a financial slump. Between 2003 and 2004, private foundation assets rose 11 percent, from $7.83 billion to $8.68 billion.

About three-fifths of all foundations increased their giving between 2003 and 2004.

The survey ranked the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation as the largest foundation in the D.C. area, with assets of $541.2 million.

Hopkins to Lead Homeland Security Study

Johns Hopkins University will lead a group of schools and state agencies studying preparation for and response to terrorist attacks and disasters.

As the fifth Homeland Security Center of Excellence, the group will receive about $15 million over three years from the federal Department of Homeland Security, which has been establishing multidisciplinary academic centers across the country to study risks.

2 Growths Removed From Lion's Lip

The National Zoo removed two small masses yesterday from the lower lip of one of its two African lions and sent them for analysis. Zoo staff noticed one growth last month. The second was noticed during yesterday's surgery.

The 17-year-old male lion, Tsavo, was recovering from anesthesia for the two-hour procedure and was expected to be back on exhibit later this week, said zoo spokesman John Gibbons. Preliminary test results should be available within two weeks, he said.

Botanic Garden Erects a Miniature Mall

The U.S. Botanic Garden has more than exotic plants and a giant, stinking flower to draw visitors this holiday season. The garden express is wending its way through floral exhibits and past a tiny version of the Mall.

The toy train will pass small models of the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the garden conservatory, Ford's Theatre and Capitol Hill's rowhouses. All the models are made from natural materials, including willow, acorns, bark and leaves. A new train will also run outside through the Children's Garden. During the holidays, conservatory hours are extended from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, and on three Thursdays -- Dec. 15, 22 and 29 -- there will be free holiday music from 5 until 8 p.m. The trains will run until Jan. 8.

THE DISTRICT

Housing Strategies for City Topic of Forum

The National Capital Planning Commission and the Washington Regional Network for Livable Communities, an affordable housing advocacy group, will hold a public forum tomorrow to discuss housing strategies for the District. Representatives from the District's Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force will present proposals, developed over two years, to create and preserve affordable housing for poor and moderate-income families and individuals.

The forum will be held at 401 Ninth St. NW, Suite 500, in the offices of the planning commission, which is the central planning agency for the federal government. The program will start at 6:30 p.m. To RSVP for the free event, call 202-244-1105.

MARYLAND

Columbia Fire Forces Evacuations

A fire in a Columbia apartment building early yesterday caused $2.5 million in damage and forced 14 families to be evacuated. Two apartment buildings in the 10300 block of Hickory Ridge Road were damaged in the fire, which began about 4:30 a.m.

Howard County fire investigators have not determined the cause but have ruled out arson, authorities said.

The American Red Cross assisted with the relocations.

Sick Workman Rescued From Water Tower

A man stranded on top of a 200-foot water tower at Andrews Air Force Base was rescued by Prince George's County emergency workers yesterday morning.

Josh Vinson, 23, an electrical engineer with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, had been up in the tower for about an hour doing routine maintenance when about 9:30 a.m. his blood-sugar level dropped suddenly, said WSSC spokeswoman Lydia Wilson. Co-workers called 911.

Rescue workers climbed to the top of the tower, gave Vinson medicine and eased him down in a plastic basket. He was also treated for hypothermia, said fire and rescue spokesman Mark Brady. Vinson, of Hyattsville, was treated at a hospital and released.

VIRGINIA

New Limits on Mercury Emissions Sought

State officials plan to propose rules this week that would cut airborne mercury emissions from Virginia power plants and factories.

Coal-burning power plants are a major source of airborne mercury. High levels of the toxic metal can damage the brain, kidneys and developing fetuses.

The regulations from the Department of Environmental Quality would be more stringent than rules released this year by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA requires coal-burning plants to cut emissions sharply by 2018; Virginia plants must do so by 64 percent. The Department of Environmental Quality plans to ask the State Air Pollution Control Board on Thursday to also require Virginia's power plants to cut emissions 64 percent. It also wants the rule to take effect by 2015.

Web Site Built for Tips in Dunning Killing

Two years after the wife of Alexandria's sheriff was found shot to death inside her home, the city's police department has set up a Web site to encourage anyone with information in the Nancy Dunning case to come forward. Police say that tips can be left anonymously at www.alexandriava.gov/dunning. A $100,000 reward is still available.

Alexandria Police Chief Charles E. Samarra said investigators believe that Dunning was targeted.

A vigil is set for tonight at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center.

"We have to teach our kids at home to make those good choices. . . . You can't serve fast food at home and then expect the kids to come to school and make healthy choices."

-- Dietitian Sandra O'Connor, Arlington schools food-service specialist, of the battle to get school students to select more nutritious foods for lunch. -- B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Jacqueline L. Salmon, Susan Kinzie, Karlyn Barker, Petula Dvorak, Debbi Wilgoren, Josh Zumbrun and Allison Klein and the Associated Press.