THE DISTRICT

Plan to Show Voting Machines Dropped Advocates for the disabled have scrapped a plan to demonstrate the use of new high-tech voting machines during the Nov. 5 elections.

The 150 machines were purchased this year by city officials as part of a settlement to a lawsuit brought against the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics by the advocates. The advocates said yesterday that they have been unable to recruit enough volunteers to operate the machines for the scheduled demonstrations.

The machines, which cost a total of $1.2 million, will be used for official voting in the May 2004 presidential primary, during which the city will take over the responsibility for operating them. Sight-impaired voters or those with hand-movement limitations will receive audio instructions and make their selections by pushing a button on a separate electronic box.

Work to Close Rock Creek Parkway Lanes Some lanes and ramps on Rock Creek Parkway will be closed on certain days over the next two weeks because of maintenance work.

On Oct. 29, the right lane of the northbound parkway will be closed from the P Street entry ramp to South Waterside Drive from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. On Oct. 30, the ramp to Pennsylvania Avenue from the southbound parkway will be closed from 9:30 a.m. to noon.

In addition, the entire parkway and the section of Beach Drive between the parkway and Porter Street will be closed from 11 p.m. Nov. 4 to 6 a.m. Nov. 5 to allow for line painting. If inclement weather prevents completion of the project, the closings will occur 24 hours later.

VIRGINIA

Report Opposes Loudoun Hospital Plans A panel that advises the state health commissioner recommended yesterday that he deny a bid by Loudoun Healthcare Inc. to expand Loudoun County's only major medical facility, as well as a plan by Nashville-based HCA Inc. to build a 180-bed hospital in the county's eastern end.

The recommendations, in a report by the state health department's Division of Certificate of Public Need, called both applications "premature," citing 288 hospital beds that have been authorized for the area's planning district but have yet to be put in place.

The recommendations follow a vote last week by another panel, the Health Systems Agency of Northern Virginia, which advised Virginia Health Commissioner Robert B. Stroube to allow the current hospital's proposed 32-bed expansion but reject HCA's proposal to build a 180-bed facility in the Broadlands community five miles away.

HCA, the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain, has proposed shuttering two other hospitals it owns in Northern Virginia and combining their staffs and services at the Loudoun site.

Stroube has until Feb. 16 to decide the issue.

Fauquier Deputy Shoots Motorist A Fauquier County sheriff's deputy shot and wounded a 27-year-old man who allegedly had tried to run him over at a gas station in Opal yesterday morning, according to a sheriff's department spokesman.

The injured man, whom authorities did not identify, was flown to a hospital, where he is in stable condition, said Capt. Wes Butler, spokesman for the sheriff's department. No charges have been filed, and the investigation is pending. No administrative action has been taken involving the deputy, Sgt. Shawn Walters, police said. Walters told his superiors that he fired in self-defense.

Police said that after Walters had observed the man sitting in his car for more than an hour at the gas station, the deputy asked the man for his driver's license and registration. Police said the man rolled up his car windows and tried to run over Walters, who then shot him in the upper torso.

Liberty U. Plans to Open Law School The Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg plans to open a law school to train conservative lawyers who will defend religious rights. The law school was approved by Liberty's Board of Trustees this month and is scheduled to open next fall.

The law school will fill a void in legal education, said university President John Borek.

"We saw a need for people to be trained in law who are evangelical Christians," he said. "While there are other institutions out there that are Christian institutions, we saw a need for people who are focused in the same way we are focused."

The law school plans to enroll about 100 students in its first class, with a projected total enrollment of 400 in five years. Faculty and staff have not been hired.

Liberty is waiting for approval from the state, which must endorse all educational programs, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Virginia also requires that law schools be accredited by the American Bar Association.

MARYLAND

Farmers Qualify for Low-Interest Loans Farmers in most of Maryland will be able to apply for low-interest federal loans to help them deal with this year's drought, but some doubt many farmers will take advantage of the offer.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) requested the federal disaster designation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in August. The declaration, which applies to every county except far western Garrett, entitles farmers who have suffered at least a 30 percent loss in their crop production to seek loans that can be paid back over as long as seven years at a 3.75 percent interest rate.

However, Valerie Connelly, director of governmental relations for the Maryland Farm Bureau, said she expects few farmers will apply for the loans.

"Many of them have so many loans they can't afford to take any more," she said.

Suspicious Package Shuts Metro Station

The Wheaton Metro station was closed briefly last night because of a suspicious package along the tracks, a Metro spokesman said.

While fire crews and police investigated the package -- which reportedly was tossed down along the tracks -- Metro single-tracked trains beginning at 10:50 p.m. The station was closed at 11:30 p.m. By 12:25 a.m., the package had been deemed harmless, the spokesman said.

"Thank you for the courage, the fortitude, the bravery for just showing up every day."

-- Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), addressing Brentwood mail center employees at a service marking the anniversary of the death of two Brentwood workers in anthrax attacks. -- Page B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers David Nakamura, Ian Shapira, David A. Fahrenthold and Leef Smith and the Associated Press.