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Archive for Friday, February 4, 2005

Briefly - Nation

February 4, 2005



Public now can review Watergate notes

While the identity of "Deep Throat" is still a well-guarded secret, the first installment of notes and quotes scribbled by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein while covering the Watergate scandal are now available to the public.

"We told the story from our perspective as well as we could. Other people should have a look at the stuff," Bernstein said Thursday at the University of Texas' Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, which purchased the materials for $5 million in 2003. They will be made public for the first time today.

Woodward and Bernstein, above, were the first reporters -- then 29 and 28, respectively -- to establish the connection between Nixon aides and the June 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters in Washington's Watergate complex. Their reporting won the Pulitzer Prize.

Any documents that could reveal the fabled "Deep Throat" will be kept secure until the source's death.

Washington, D.C.

FBI director admits to computer problems

Lawmakers criticized FBI Director Robert Mueller on Thursday for continued problems with a costly computer project that was supposed to dramatically improve management of terrorism and other criminal cases.

Mueller acknowledged he didn't know how much the FBI's Virtual Case File would cost beyond the $170 million already budgeted and largely spent, or when FBI agents and analysts would have it on their computers.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mueller made improvement of the agency's computer systems a priority. Members of Congress and the independent Sept. 11 commission said the overhaul was critical to enabling the FBI and intelligence agencies to "connect the dots" in preventing attacks.

His remarks came the same day the Justice Department released a report blaming planning failures and management weaknesses for many of the project's problems.


Death-row inmates launch hunger strike

Five death-row inmates waged a hunger strike Thursday, asking to be allowed to interact with one another and calling their years of solitary confinement "inhumane and tantamount to psychological torture."

The inmates said their protest was not about serial killer Michael Ross, whose execution was put on hold this week after his attorney said Ross' living conditions could have contributed to his decision to forgo further appeals.

The participating inmates are at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers and are among eight prisoners housed on death row in Connecticut.

In a statement, the inmates said their request for communal recreation was "not unreasonable." The inmates are alone in their cells 23 hours a day, and each gets an hour of solitary recreation outside the cells.

Minneapolis, Minn.

Air pollution warnings issued in upper Midwest

Air pollution has built to unhealthy levels across the upper Midwest, a wintertime rarity caused by the absence of strong wind, and problems were expected to continue for children and other sensitive groups.

Minnesota officials warned Wednesday that air in the Twin Cities was unhealthy for anyone, and Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, this week had their first-ever winter air alerts, warning of unhealthy conditions for people at risk.

The region's pollution built up when a stagnant air mass trapped fine particles near the ground this week. The particles come from sources such as car exhaust, factories and fireplaces.

San Antonio

Author, entertainer starts gubernatorial bid

Musician-turned-mystery author Kinky Friedman launched an independent, and unconventional, campaign Thursday to run for Texas governor in 2006.

Friedman is campaigning against what he calls the "wussification" of Texas, which he defines as political correctness run amok. He favors legalized casino gambling to finance education and would push for life without parole as an alternative to the death penalty.

Friedman, 60, views the successes of Jesse Ventura in Minnesota and Arnold Schwarzenegger in California as signs he can be elected.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry is expected to seek a second term.

Washington, D.C.

EPA audit finds fault with mercury policy

The Bush administration overlooked health effects and sided with the electric industry in developing rules for cutting toxic mercury pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general said Thursday.

Nikki Tinsley's report said the EPA based its mercury pollution limits on an analysis submitted by Western Energy Supply and Transmission Associates, a research and advocacy group representing 17 coal-fired utilities in eight Western states.

Tinsley said agency workers were instructed by "EPA senior management" to develop a standard compared with other regulations and a White House legislative plan, "instead of basing the standard on an unbiased determination" of the limits.

Washington, D.C.

Senators seek delay in Canadian beef imports

Skeptical U.S. senators urged the Bush administration Thursday to postpone its plan to allow Canadian beef into the United States next month, citing continuing concerns about mad cow disease.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns said he was open to a delay, but only if scientific evidence warranted. Otherwise, he said, a delay would hurt efforts to get American beef back into many overseas markets that were closed after a cow in Washington state was found to have BSE, commonly called mad cow disease, in December 2003.

So far, the USDA has determined that "Canada has the necessary safeguards in place to protect U.S. consumers and livestock against BSE," Johanns told the Senate Agriculture Committee.

The United States cut off Canadian beef imports in May 2003 after a Canadian cow was found to have the brain-riddling disease.


NIH plans to provide free access to research

After years of heated debates and under pressure from Congress, federal health officials announced Thursday a historic new policy to give the public free access to scientific findings funded with tax dollars.

The plan, unveiled by the National Institutes of Health despite sharp opposition by scientific publishers, calls on scientists to release electronic manuscripts of published research supported by NIH's 27 institutes and centers "as soon as possible, and within 12 months of final publication."

Currently, most publicly funded research studies are available only by buying expensive subscriptions to the journals that publish them or on a pay-per-article basis.

Considered the leading biomedical research institution in the world -- as well as the largest -- NIH spends 85 percent of its $28 billion budget on competitive research grants and contracts.


University begins review of professor's work

University of Colorado administrators Thursday took the first steps toward a possible dismissal of a professor who likened World Trade Center victims to a notorious Nazi.

Interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano ordered a 30-day review of Ward Churchill's speeches and writings to determine if the professor overstepped his boundaries of academic freedom and whether that should be grounds for dismissal.

The furor erupted last month after Churchill was invited to speak at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Campus officials discovered an essay and follow-up book by Churchill in which he said the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were a response to a history of American abuses abroad, particularly against indigenous peoples.

Among other things, he said those killed in the trade center were "little Eichmanns," a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who organized Nazi plans to exterminate Jews.

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