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Nation briefs 5/23/06

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Recent searches show FBI pursuit of public corruption

WASHINGTON -- Over nine days in May, FBI agents in the Washington area searched the offices of a lawmaker and the No. 3 CIA official in a flurry of activity that highlights a newly aggressive pursuit of public corruption cases by federal prosecutors and investigators. It is clear that investigators are spending more time looking for corruption. More than 1,000 officials, military personnel and police officers have been convicted over two years, with a 25 percent increase from 2004 to 2005, the FBI said. There are more than 2,200 open investigations on the federal, state and local level, and more than 600 agents work corruption cases, about a third of all agents dedicated to white-collar crime, Burrus said. That number has increased, he said, despite the bureau's realignment since the Sept. 11 attacks to focus on counterterrorism investigations.

Doctors test device to zap asthmatic airways

WASHINGTON -- In a radical experiment, doctors are snaking wires inside the lungs of asthma patients to essentially burn off some of the tissue that blocks their ability to breathe. Called bronchial thermoplasty, the procedure is the first attempt at a non-drug treatment for asthma. It's not without risk. Irritating those super-sensitive airways can trigger wheezing, and no one knows the long-term effects. Nor does it promise a cure. But the hope is that physically altering spasm-prone airways might one day help thousands of patients with hard-to-control asthma breathe easier.

Report: Corps of Engineers dysfunctional, needs overhaul

NEW ORLEANS -- The federal agency responsible for maintaining the city's levees is dysfunctional and needs to be overhauled to prevent future catastrophic flooding, scientists said in a report released Monday. The group also said routine underfunding of the city's levee system was to blame for flooding during Hurricane Katrina. "You tend to get what you pay for," Dave Rogers, a member of the team of academics who extensively studied the system, said during a news conference. The team, led by the University of California, Berkeley, looked into what went wrong last August when Katrina's storm surge overwhelmed New Orleans' flood defenses, killing more than 1,300 people.

Rescue efforts hampered in Chinese mining disaster

ZUOYUN, China -- Electricity shortages slowed attempts to clear a flooded mine shaft Monday, and residents began to lose hope for 57 miners trapped for a fourth day in China's worst mining accident this year. Rescuers threaded hoses into the main shaft and carted steel pipes into a secondary entrance to the Xinjing mine in the dusty north China hill country, where poverty and China's massive appetite for energy are fueling risky and often deadly mining practices. The rescue effort has run into problems. Rescuers said they didn't have enough electricity to drive the pumps. The teams worked without apparent haste. With no ambulance or medical personnel on the site, it appeared rescuers were not expecting to find anyone alive from Thursday's accident.

Hamas militiamen, Palestinian police wage shootout

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Downtown turned into a battlefield Monday as Hamas militiamen and Palestinian police attacked each other with assault rifles and grenades in a chaotic firefight. An aide to the Jordanian ambassador was killed and 11 people were wounded. Eight others have died in violence over the last two weeks. At stake? A bitter power struggle between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah Party and Hamas militants who won January parliamentary elections and won control of the Palestinian Cabinet.

-- From wire reports


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