THE DISTRICT

Takoma Aquatic Center Underway A groundbreaking ceremony was held yesterday to launch the construction of the Takoma Aquatic Center, an $11 million project that will be the city's largest indoor recreational facility.

The center, at Third and Van Buren streets NW, will include an Olympic-size indoor pool, a wading pool, locker rooms and a fitness center -- all accessible to people with disabilities. A courtyard will connect it to the historic Takoma Bathhouse, which will be converted into a multipurpose room, computer labs, meeting rooms and staff offices.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) attended the groundbreaking. The project is scheduled to be completed in early 2004.

Election-Fraud Prosecutor Named

U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard Jr. named one of his top supervisors yesterday to oversee the investigation and prosecution of election fraud in the District.

Stevan E. Bunnell, who heads the office's fraud and public corruption section, will take on the additional duties as part of a national initiative to target such crimes as voter bribery, voter intimidation and ballot forgery, Howard said.

Those with complaints can call the FBI at 703-762-3300 or Bunnell at 202-514-6600, Howard said.

Carbon Monoxide Sends 8 to Hospital

Eight people were sickened by carbon monoxide in separate incidents yesterday, according to the D.C. fire department.

In the first incident, about 7:45 a.m., six people were overcome by carbon monoxide in a rowhouse in the 3000 block of Eighth Street SE, fire department spokesman Alan Etter said. The victims included three children, one of them a year old. The victims were taken to George Washington Hospital for treatment, Etter said. A partially blocked chimney was determined to have caused the buildup of carbon monoxide.

About an hour later, two women were found suffering from severe carbon monoxide poisoning in a rowhouse in the 1500 block of 41st Street NE, Etter said. The two, a mother and daughter, were at George Washington Hospital in critical condition. Etter said the fumes in their home were caused by a faulty furnace.

MARYLAND

Arson Victim Laid to Rest as Hero Carnell Dawson Sr., who died of burns from a fire allegedly set in retaliation for his taking a stand against drugs in his Baltimore neighborhood, was remembered as a hero yesterday.

Baltimore "can't go back to business as usual" in the fight against drug-related crime, the Rev. Clifford Johnson told mourners at the construction worker's funeral at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. In the same church last week, a service was held for Dawson's wife and five of their children, all victims of the fire in their East Baltimore rowhouse Oct. 16. "Our hearts are wrenched beyond measure," Johnson said.

Dawson, 43, and his wife, Angela, 36, had complained repeatedly to police about street-corner drug dealing.

A 21-year-old neighbor has been charged with murder and arson in the deaths. Darrell Brooks has a long record of arrests involving robbery, assault and drugs, according to police.

Dawson's coffin, covered with the Maryland flag, was carried out of the church by police officers. He was buried with his family in the "Fallen Heroes" section of Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium, an area normally reserved for police officers and firefighters and their spouses.

Absentee Ballot Rules Outlined Counting of absentee ballots in Maryland will begin Thursday, the state Board of Elections said yesterday, responding to what it said were concerns that absentee ballots would not be included in the vote count.

Questions have also been raised about whether voters who asked for absentee ballots on forms distributed by the Republican Party were notified in time that the forms were found deficient. The board said no absentee ballot could be rejected except by unanimous vote of a county election board on which both parties were represented.

The board said that absentee ballots returned by mail must be postmarked by the U.S. Postal Service no later than Monday -- the day before Election Day. The ballots must be received no later than Wednesday.

Absentee ballots delivered in person must be received by the local board of elections before 8 p.m. Tuesday, Election Day. Absentee ballots from military personnel or citizens living abroad must be received by Nov. 15, a board official said.

VIRGINIA

DMV's Office Hours Have Changed Reduced hours took effect yesterday at Department of Motor Vehicles customer service centers statewide. The cutbacks were ordered by Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) last month, along with the closing of 12 centers, as part of an effort to close a state budget gap approaching $2 billion.

All Northern Virginia DMV offices -- except the one at Springfield Mall -- are now open Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. until noon.

The Springfield Mall center is open the same four days each week, but from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Beginning next week, all DMV offices will be closed on Wednesdays. In addition, 12 centers across the state are being closed, including the offices in Sterling, Warrenton and Fair Oaks Mall.

Some services are available online at the department's Web site, www.dmvnow.com, or by calling 866-368-5463 or 800-435-5137.

Federal Drought-Disaster Aid Sought

Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) has requested federal drought-disaster designations for eight more Virginia localities.

Federal approval would make farmers in Alleghany, Charles City, Giles, Northampton, Northumberland, Orange, Shenandoah and Southampton counties eligible for low-interest loans as well as any supplemental relief that Congress may provide.

"Even with recent rains, Virginia's drought, and certainly this year's crop losses, are an ongoing problem," Warner said yesterday.

Warner also called on U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman to take action on pending requests submitted on behalf of 36 localities in which growers have documented drought or heat-related crop losses.

Forty-five Virginia localities have already been declared disaster areas because of the long-running drought.

The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is assessing localities that have not requested a disaster designation to see if they would also qualify.

"A 10-year-old could have done it better than he did."

-- John Fuller, head of the commission investigating the activities of sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad in Antigua, on the fake birth certificate Muhammad used to obtain Antiguan citizenship. -- Page A1

Compiled by staff writers Debbi Wilgoren, David A. Fahrenthold and Martin Weil and the Associated Press.