Archive for Thursday, October 23, 2003

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October 23, 2003

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Washington, D.C.

FBI probes ricin discovery

A vial containing the deadly poison ricin was found inside an envelope at a South Carolina postal facility, federal officials said Wednesday. The FBI was investigating but terrorism was not suspected.

"Based on the evidence obtained so far, we do not believe this is linked to terrorism but is related to threats criminal in nature," said Brian Roehrkasse, spokesman for the Homeland Security Department.

A letter inside the envelope referenced legislation in Congress involving truckers and included an extortion threat against the government, according to a federal law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

California

Schwarzenegger announces plans for special session

Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger told legislators Wednesday during his first official visit to the state Capitol that he planned to call a special session the day after he is sworn into office.

Priorities for the session may include legislation recently signed by outgoing Gov. Gray Davis that grants driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. Workers' compensation reform, political reform and budget issues are other possible topics, said spokesman Rob Stutzman.

Schwarzenegger's aides expect him to be sworn in as governor Nov. 17.

Tennessee

Commercial nuclear reactor begins making bomb material

The Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in Spring City has resumed operation -- making it the only commercial nuclear station in the United States producing both electricity for homes and factories and isotopes for bombs.

The single-reactor station, owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority, was listed at 44 percent of full power and ascending Wednesday, said John Moulton, a TVA spokesman.

Tritium, a hydrogen isotope that enhances the explosive force of thermonuclear weapons, is required for every warhead in the U.S. arsenal.

The government hasn't made tritium since 1988 when its production reactors at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina were closed for operational and safety problems. Meanwhile, the short-lived material was recycled from older weapons.

The Energy Department will begin tapping its five-year tritium reserve by 2005 without a new supply.

Washington, D.C.

FAA to allow planes to fly closer together

Beginning in January 2005, the government will allow planes to fly closer together at high altitudes to make more routes available.

In announcing the rule change Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration said it would make U.S. high-altitude airspace consistent with that over Europe, Australia, northern Canada and most of the North Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Caribbean and South American countries will join the United States and southern Canada in adhering to the new flight-separation rules, the FAA said.

Planes will be able to fly with at least 1,000 feet between them and planes above or below them when they're between 29,000 and 41,000 feet. Now the distance must be 2,000 feet.

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