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 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.

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.

Attorneys for Nader's campaign had argued that the state illegally rejected the signatures of voters who were registered but didn't live in the county named at the top of the petitions they signed.

THE DISTRICT

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 living at the National Zoo will move 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.

Two other orangutans -- one from a zoo in Kansas and the other from a zoo in Utah -- are scheduled to arrive at the zoo in October, Long said. The new arrivals will restore the number of orangutans at the zoo to five.

Robert W. Shumaker, director of the orangutan research program at the trust, has studied both of the apes for nearly a decade at the zoo and facilitated their move so that he could continue studying them. Shumaker had worked at the National Zoo since 1984 and began his research into the mental abilities of the animals in 1995. He left the zoo last October.

The orangutans are set to leave the zoo Sept. 28.

GWU Paper Gets Top Honors

George Washington University's student newspaper has been named the best non-daily college paper in the country by the Society of Professional Journalists.

GWU's Hatchet beat out other regional finalists from Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Central Florida to win the national award.

Judges cited the Hatchet's "professional quality writing," which they said had "just enough sass for a college paper."

The Hatchet, founded in 1904, is released on Mondays and Thursdays. It operates without financial support or editorial guidance from the university.

"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, Amy Argetsinger, Lyndsey Layton, Nicole Fuller and Martin Weil and the Associated Press contributed to this report.