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Archive for Thursday, April 22, 2004

Briefly

April 22, 2004

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Washington, D.C.

Saudi ambassador denies oil-price plan

The Saudi ambassador to the United States on Wednesday denied any linkage between the U.S. presidential election campaign and a Saudi pledge to the Bush administration to push for lower oil prices.

There was no "quid pro quo," Prince Bandar bin Sultan told reporters after a meeting with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice about the latest terrorist strike in Saudi Arabia.

"The president has asked a few times that we should be helping to make sure that oil prices don't go too high that would curb the world economy recovery," Bandar added.

"I cannot say we're not aware that you are going through your seasonal tribal warfare now so it's very dangerous to open one's mouth here on any issue," Bandar said. "I hope Senator (John) Kerry has heard my explanation about the oil, and he can be assured that we didn't make any deals that could interfere in our friends' internal affairs."

Vermont

Nuclear plant searching for missing fuel rods

Two pieces of a highly radioactive fuel rod are missing from a Vermont nuclear plant, and engineers planned to search onsite for the nuclear material, officials said Wednesday.

The fuel rod was removed in 1979 from the Vermont Yankee reactor in Vernon, which is currently shut down for refueling and maintenance. Remote-control cameras will be used to search a spent fuel pool on the property, officials said.

"We do not think there is a threat to the public at this point. The great probability is this material is still somewhere in the pool," said Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan.

But Sheehan said it was possible the spent fuel was mixed in with a shipment of low-level nuclear waste and ended up at a repository in South Carolina, or a facility in Washington state. He said it was also possible it was taken to a nuclear testing facility run by General Electric, which designed the plant.

Washington, D.C.

Abortion-rights march planned for Sunday

Hoping to fill the National Mall, abortion-rights supporters outlined plans Wednesday for a march this weekend that they are billing as their largest gathering in more than a decade.

Organizers predict the "March for Women's Lives" on Sunday will top 750,000, which would match their estimate of the last major rally in 1992.

Among the expected participants are former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, civil rights activist Dorothy Height and actresses Ashley Judd and Julianne Moore. More than 300 Kansas and Missouri university students are expected to attend; see Friday's Journal-World for details.

Los Angeles

Third power outage reported at airport

A crow sitting on a utility pole Wednesday caused the third power outage in 10 days at Los Angeles International Airport, further frustrating airport officials and prompting security experts to ask whether the electrical grid serving the airport area is vulnerable to sabotage.

Department of Water and Power officials responded to the series of blackouts by saying they would switch a major power feed into LAX from an above-ground line to an underground connection, a move that experts said would make the circuit less susceptible to tampering.

The early-morning outage cut off electricity to LAX for several seconds. All backup electrical systems at the airport worked, officials said, and no flights were delayed. But it forced security officials to reboot and recalibrate explosives-detection machines and metal detectors in the airport's nine terminals, causing delays.

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