AU Muslim Prayer Room Vandalized

Campus police at American University are investigating the vandalism of a Muslim prayer room that was discovered Saturday, the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

University officials said that someone smashed the glass of a framed picture of a mosque, leaving shards scattered on the carpet, and tore pages in a copy of the Koran.

The room, in the campus's Kay Spiritual Center, is left open round-the-clock for worshipers. Sarah Ahmed, president of the Muslim Student Association, said the damage was discovered Saturday afternoon by an association officer.

"It was shocking and disturbing, aside from the fact that it was highly dangerous," she said. "People walk in there barefoot to pray, and there was glass all over the place."

University spokesman Todd Sedmak said campus police are trying to determine a motive and do not have suspects.

"We deplore this behavior, and we're working to find out who did it and why."


Ruling Expected on Nader Being on Ballot

An Anne Arundel County Circuit judge is expected to rule today on a challenge by presidential candidate Ralph Nader to gain a spot on the Maryland ballot.

The State Board of Elections determined last month that the Populist Party had fallen 537 signatures short of the 10,000 valid signatures needed to secure a spot for Nader on the Nov. 2 ballot.

An attorney for Nader argued in court yesterday that 618 names that were declared invalid should be allowed.

Those signatures represented real voters, but they were erroneously listed on pages from counties in which the voters did not reside.

Two Prince George's School Buses Crash

Two busloads of school-age children were taken to the hospital yesterday afternoon to be screened for injuries after a minor accident involving two Prince George's County school buses, police said.

At least five children and a bus driver were treated for minor injuries after complaining of neck and back pain, said Cpl. Diane Richardson, a department spokeswoman.

The accident occurred about 3:50 p.m. at Saint Barnabas Road and John Hanson Lane in Oxon Hill, when a school bus transporting children from Valley View Elementary School struck a bus carrying children from John Hanson French Immersion and Montessori School, Richardson said.

Officials are investigating whether a brake malfunction may have caused the accident, Richardson said.

Human Resources Could Owe Millions

The state Department of Human Resources could owe the federal government as much as $70 million related to past foster care expenditures and public assistance payments, according to an audit made public yesterday by the state Office of Legislative Audits.

The Department of Human Resources has reimbursed the federal government $7 million for various expenditures from 1992 through 2001, the audit said. Those costs were disallowed by the federal government because of discrepancies in a cost-allocation plan.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services has questioned an additional $70 million in expenditures dating from 1998. Audits of those expenditures have not been finalized, however, the state reported.

Howard County Names Election Director

Howard County's election board yesterday named Betty L. Nordaas as election director. She replaces Robert J. Antonetti Sr., who retired March 31 after 31/2 years in the job.

Nordaas, a former information systems manager for Verizon who retired last year, will start work tomorrow as head of the eight-person elections office in Columbia.

Nordaas, a registered Republican, said at a news conference yesterday that she became interested in the job after serving as an election judge in this year's Maryland primary. She will be paid $55,164.

Election board President Guy L. Harriman said the board picked Nordaas after interviewing 31 candidates. He said she has the management skills and experience in information systems the board was seeking.

Harriman said that Howard County, which has about 157,000 registered voters, is gearing up for what he anticipates will be substantial changes in voting systems and registration procedures over the next several years.

Howard, which uses touch-screen voting, has experienced little difficulty with the system, he said.

License of La Plata Doctor Suspended

A La Plata internist charged with sexually assaulting four women at his office had his Maryland physician's license suspended, Charles County sheriff's office said.

Waheed U. Akthar, 54, had his license to practice indefinitely suspended by the Maryland Board of Physicians, which made public a 36-page report detailing allegations that covered more than 10 years.

On Friday, authorities went to Akthar's White Plains office and confiscated his medical license, prescription pads and medications, said sheriff's office spokesperson Kristen Adkins.

Akthar was served a criminal summons in June charging that he kissed and fondled the breasts of two 21-year-old patients during treatment for minor ailments.

After the charges were publicized, 20 additional women reported similar incidents, but the 12-month statute of limitations had expired on all but the two most recent cases, authorities said.


Body Believed That of Front Royal Man

Authorities believe they have recovered the body of a 22-year-old Front Royal man who disappeared after jumping into the Shenandoah River in Warren County on Thursday night.

Warren County authorities tentatively identified the body, which was pulled from the river Saturday, as that of Nathan Ballentine. Ballentine jumped into the river in an attempt to get a paddleboat that was rushing downstream.

"The fact is, we didn't allow the District to have home rule on the selling of slaves, either."

-- Rep. Mark E. Souder (R-Ind.) on his

"D.C. Personal Protection Act," which would

repeal virtually all of the District's

restrictions on guns. -- Page A1

Compiled by reports from staff writers Amy Argetsinger, Joshua Partlow, Nicole Fuller, Miranda S. Spivak and John Wagner and the Associated Press.