MARYLAND

Ruling Bars Nader From Md. Ballot

A judge sided with the state yesterday in a ruling that will keep presidential candidate Ralph Nader off the Maryland ballot in November.

Nader's campaign had filed petitions to create a Populist Party, but state and local election officials invalidated about one-third of the signatures.

The rejection left Nader supporters 537 short of the 10,000 valid signatures needed to qualify a new party for the ballot.

VIRGINIA

Arlington to Hand Out SmarTrip Cards

Arlington County is giving away free SmarTrip cards today to bus riders along Columbia Pike. The SmarTrip cards, which have a retail value of $5, are the rechargeable plastic cards that can be used to pay fares on Metrobus and Metrorail. The county is distributing 5,000 of the cards to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Pike Ride, improved bus service on Columbia Pike that is now carrying 11,000 riders a day.

The cards will not have any value and, to be used to pay a fare, must first be "loaded" with cash or a credit card at either a Metro Farecard machine or at a fare box on a Metrobus. County staff will be handing out the cards at 12 Pike Ride bus stops along Columbia Pike from 6 to 9 a.m. and at Pentagon City from 3 to 7 p.m.

Pike Ride was designed to mimic the frequency of the subway, offering more Metrobus Route 16 service between Arlington County and the Pentagon and Pentagon City Metro stations. Direct commuter service to downtown Washington was also improved to 20-minute intervals. For more information, call 703-228-RIDE or visit www.CommuterPage.com/PikeRide.

Rabies Found in Baby Raccoon

Tests have shown the presence of rabies in a baby raccoon that was left last month with an Alexandria resident, and authorities are asking that whoever left the animal call the city's health department as soon as possible.

A 6-month-old raccoon was left in a cardboard box Aug. 25 in the Del Ray area at the home of a woman who rehabilitates wildlife. The woman was bitten, rabies treatment was begun, and the animal sent for testing.

A spokeswoman for the state health department asked anyone who handled the raccoon to call Bob Custard, Alexandria's environmental health manager, at 571-221-7288.

Deal to Protect Portion of Battlefield

Preservationists and Tricord Inc., a Spotsylvania developer, say they have worked out a deal to protect 140 core acres of the Chancellorsville battlefield. Many historians consider the May 1863 battle the closest the Confederates came to winning the Civil War, said Jim Campi, spokesman for the Washington-based Civil War Preservation Trust.

Most of that acreage, part of the 795-acre Mullins Farm on Route 3 south of Fredericksburg, would have been developed under a proposal rejected by the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors in March 2003. The Reston-based Dogwood Development Group planned to build 2,000 homes and 1.2 million square feet of commercial development.

THE DISTRICT

Firetruck, Motorcycle Collide in NW

A firetruck and a motorcycle collided last night while the firetruck was rushing to a fire that forced the evacuation of a Northwest Washington hotel, D.C. fire officials said.

A man was transported to a hospital with injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening after the accident at Adams Mill Road and Lanier Place NW, fire department spokesman Allan Etter said. It was unclear which driver had the right of way, Etter said.

Seven people at the Wardman Park Marriott Hotel were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. The fire broke out about 9 p.m. in a first-floor laundry room in the hotel in the 2600 block of Woodley Road NW. The motor of the laundry's dryer apparently had overheated, Etter said.

Smoke entered the air ducts and spread to the second and third floors. No damage estimates were immediately available.

Gun Ban Advocates Fault Bush

Supporters of a federal ban on 19 types of semiautomatic weapons that expired Monday stood with families of law enforcement officers slain in the District and criticized President Bush for failing to fight for renewal of the 10-year-old law.

"President Bush believes an endorsement from the gun lobby is more important than protecting the citizens and law enforcement officers of this country," said Bryan Miller, executive director of CeaseFire New Jersey and brother of Michael J. Miller, an FBI special agent who was killed with agent Martha Dixon Martinez and D.C. police Sgt. Henry J. Daly, a homicide detective, inside police headquarters by a man with a compact assault weapon on Nov. 22, 1994.

"This is one of the most disgusting examples of cheap, election-year politics. The president said he supported banning assault weapons, but he has stood by and done nothing," Miller said, holding a MAC-10 submachine gun at the Washington Area Law Enforcement Memorial fountain outside police headquarters.

Advocacy groups said that 1,963 chiefs of police, sheriffs and local prosecutors support extending the law and that one in five law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty was killed with an assault-style weapon. They said the government has not enforced gun laws, noting a July Justice Department study that reported that of 122,000 gun buyers who committed a felony by lying on required federal background check forms in 2002 and 2003, only 154 were prosecuted, while 7,030 people who were prohibited by law from purchasing a gun were able to do so.

2 Zoo Orangutans Going to Iowa

Two adult orangutans will move from the National Zoo to an ape research center in Iowa this month, zoo officials said yesterday.

A male named Azy and his sister, Indah, are moving to Great Ape Trust of Iowa in Des Moines, where researchers will study them in an attempt to better understand the mental abilities of the species, said Peper Long, a National Zoo spokeswoman.

Robert W. Shumaker, director of the orangutan research program at the trust, has studied the apes for nearly a decade at the zoo and facilitated their move so that he could continue studying them. The orangutans are set to leave the zoo Sept. 28.

"Unfortunately, it seems to me the media focus has been on the hysterical crying bride days before her wedding."

-- Thomas K. Bradley, general manager of Frederick

Towne Mall, where a Kaufman's Wedding World bridal shop closed after filing for bankruptcy, leaving hundreds of brides-to-be without gowns. -- Page B1

Staff writers Spencer S. Hsu, Nicole Fuller, Lyndsey Layton, Martin Weil and Michelle Boorstein and the Associated Press contributed to this report.