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Archive for Saturday, July 20, 2002

Briefly

July 20, 2002

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Illinois

House Speaker suggests congressman should resign

House Speaker Dennis Hastert said Friday that Rep. James Traficant would be better off resigning than waiting for Congress to vote on whether the Ohio lawmaker should be expelled.

A House committee already has decided that Traficant should be ejected for ethics violations stemming from his bribery, tax evasion and fraud conviction. The congressman's fate is now up to the full House.

"It would certainly help him if he resigned," Hastert, a Republican, said before speaking Friday at an annual fund-raiser in his congressional district outside Chicago. "I think we're going to come to the floor with that expulsion issue this week and certainly if he chose to resign he'd be better off, but that's up to him."

Denver

Heavy firefighting tankers grounded after 2nd crash

The nation's firefighting fleet of heavy air tankers was grounded Friday during one of the worst wildfire seasons on record after the second deadly crash since June in which a plane broke apart while battling a blaze in the West.

Thirty-two tankers were ordered to remain on the ground for 24 hours by the National Interagency Fire Center. Also grounded were 22 lead planes, which guide tankers to their targets. The lead planes' absence means eight Air Force cargo planes that carry fire retardant were not flying.

In the meantime, wildfires across the West are being fought with smaller, single-engine tankers, helicopters, smokejumpers and ground crews.

On Thursday, a World War II-era PB4Y-2 Privateer crashed, killing the two crew members, while battling a wildfire 45 miles northwest of Denver. Witnesses said it broke apart in the air. The National Transportation Safety Board and U.S. Forest Service are investigating. On June 17, a C-130A air tanker crashed after its wings snapped off near Walker, Calif. The accident is still under investigation.

Washington

Investigation ordered of leak about possible Iraq attack

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered an internal investigation into who leaked a highly classified document on possible military actions to topple Iraq's Saddam Hussein, officials said Friday.

The investigation, which has not been publicly announced, is being conducted by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, whose primary missions are criminal investigation and counterintelligence.

The Pentagon public affairs office would not comment, but the investigation of the leak to The New York Times was confirmed by several senior officials, including some who said they had been questioned in their offices this week by agents of the Air Force Office of Special Investigation.

An official with direct knowledge of Rumsfeld's decision said it was the first such probe he has ordered since taking office. This official, who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity, said he issued the order shortly after the Times story July 5.

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