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Archive for Thursday, October 23, 2003

Briefly

October 23, 2003

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Philadelphia

FBI apologizes for find of bug before election

Acknowledging for the first time that the FBI hid listening devices in the mayor's office, the bureau's top agent in Philadelphia expressed regret Wednesday that the discovery has created turmoil weeks before a mayoral election.

Speaking at an unscheduled news conference, Special Agent Jeffrey Lampinski offered an apology, but declined to discuss details of the federal investigation.

"No one regrets more so than the investigators on this case that this device was uncovered in the midst of an election," Lampinski said.

An FBI bug was found on Oct. 7 in the office of incumbent Democrat John Street during a routine security sweep. Since then, agents have subpoenaed records from city agencies, searched the offices of at least two of the mayor's political allies and confiscated three of Street's computers.

U.S. Atty. Patrick Meehan continued to deflect questions about the probe, refusing to say what agents were investigating or whether Street was a suspect.

New York City

Ferry captain refuses to meet investigators

The city Wednesday moved to fire the Staten Island Ferry captain involved in last week's fatal crash after he refused for a second day to meet with federal investigators.

"We are drawing up charges as we speak based on his refusal to cooperate," said Iris Weinshall, city transportation commissioner.

Michael Gansas, who supervised the pilot operating the ferry when the crash occurred, had refused to meet with National Transportation Safety Board investigators on Tuesday, prompting federal officials to issue a subpoena. On Wednesday, Gansas' attorney, Stephen Sheinbaum, said his client remained too traumatized to speak with investigators and was under medical care.

Sheinbaum added that Gansas plans to cooperate when he is "legally and medically free to do so."

Washington, D.C.

VA's outpatient care found medically sound

The U.S. veterans health care system cut hospital use in half over the past decade without harming patients, suggesting that the nation's shift toward outpatient care is medically sound, researchers say.

In 1995, the Veterans Affairs Department made sweeping changes to shorten or eliminate hospital stays for injuries and illnesses that could be treated at doctors' offices or outpatient centers. Under the old rules, a veteran with a broken leg had to be hospitalized instead of being sent home after having a cast put on.

To see if that hurt patients, the VA studied whether patients were more likely to die after the changes took effect. It also looked at emergency room use, to see whether care simply moved from one expensive area to another.

Looking at one-year survival rates in 342,300 patients with nine serious chronic illnesses -- six physical, three mental -- the VA found that survival went up in five of the groups and remained stable in the four others.

California

Residents evacuated as wildfires spread

Authorities on Wednesday advised residents near an 800-acre brush fire at Camp Pendleton to leave their homes as wildfires spread.

The blaze was apparently started by ammunition, authorities said, and was burning in an uninhabited area used for training exercises at the Marine base near San Diego.

High temperatures helped spur five wildfires, burning more than 5,600 acres. Southern California has experienced record, triple-digit temperatures and the heat is expected to continue for a few days.

Officials also were bracing for the season's first Santa Ana winds that may help the fires spread. The winds were expected to begin Wednesday night.

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