Nation briefs 7/27/06

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Former President Ford hospitalized, released

VAIL, Colo. -- Former President Ford was released from a hospital Wednesday, two days after being admitted for shortness of breath. Ford, 93, was admitted Monday afternoon and released at noon Wednesday, Vail Valley Medical Center said in a written statement. Ford's chief of staff, Penny Circle, said in a statement that Ford planned to return to his home in nearby Beaver Creek. She did not immediately return phone messages. Ford became the nation's oldest living former president after the death of Ronald Reagan in 2004.

U.S. general: Evacuations from Lebanon finishing

WASHINGTON -- A Canadian chartered ship was being sent Wednesday to rescue more than 300 Americans, Australians and citizens of other nations stranded in south Lebanon, as the massive evacuation from the fighting wound down. "We hopefully will get them out on a commercial vessel later this evening," U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Carl Jensen, head of the U.S. part of the multination evacuations, said early Wednesday. Speaking from Cyprus to a Pentagon news conference, Jensen said that with the pickup, more than 14,000 Americans will have been evacuated from the region, torn by fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas.

La. congressman wins delay in investigation

WASHINGTON -- A federal appeals court on Wednesday temporarily delayed a Justice Department bribery investigation of a Louisiana congressman while he challenges the legality of an unprecedented FBI raid on his Capitol Hill office. The decision by two members of a three-judge panel means the Justice Department cannot begin a review, set to begin Wednesday, of more than a dozen computer hard drives, several floppy discs and two boxes of documents seized during a May raid on Democratic Rep. William Jefferson's Rayburn Building office.

White House pushes updated wiretap law

WASHINGTON -- As debate continues over the legality of President Bush's domestic spying program, the administration pressed Congress Wednesday to ease decades-old surveillance restrictions to catch up to the technology of the Internet age. But Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee countered that legislation updating the 1978 law covering such monitoring -- the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) -- is tilted too far in favor of Bush since it would also award a secret court jurisdiction to determine whether the current program is legal. They argue that updating the law is a secondary concern since the White House claims its ongoing surveillance operations in the war on terror are not bound by it.

Turnpike chief's attorney tries to block ouster effort

BOSTON -- An attorney for Massachusetts Turnpike Authority chief Matthew Amorello argued in court Wednesday that Gov. Mitt Romney has no authority to oust him from the independent agency over the troubled Big Dig. State Supreme Judicial Court Justice Francis X. Spina did not immediately rule on Amorello's request to block Romney from going forward today with a hearing on the MTA chief's job status. Spina also did not indicate when he would rule in another lawsuit filed by three MTA board members who contend Amorello's refusal to hold an emergency meeting has hurt the public's confidence in the project after a fatal tunnel ceiling collapse July 10.

Northwest flights delayed for 2nd day

MINNEAPOLIS -- A computer glitch caused more delays for some Northwest Airlines Corp. flights Wednesday, as the carrier attempted to fly a full schedule while its technicians worked to fix the problem that delayed nearly 300 flights Tuesday. While no flights were canceled Wednesday, about 80 Northwest flights had been delayed an average of 20 minutes by midmorning.

White House working on detainee legislation

WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Wednesday the administration is pursuing legislation that would authorize the same military tribunals the Supreme Court last month called illegal. In an interview on C-SPAN, Gonzales confirmed the administration had drafted a proposal that would allow indefinite detention of suspected terrorists. The draft is now being circulated among military lawyers for comment. "There may be instances where it is impractical to bring someone to trial within 120 days or a short period of time," Gonzales said. Gonzales also confirmed the administration was considering a system that would allow reliable hearsay evidence when prosecuting terror suspects. Defendants also would be barred from their own trials if it necessary to protect national security.

National Park Service director resigns

WASHINGTON -- The director of the National Park Service announced her resignation Wednesday from an agency often at odds with environmentalists for shifting its focus from conservation to recreation. Fran Mainella headed the agency for six years and most recently oversaw a controversial rewrite of management policies for the parks under its care. Mainella is leaving her position to devote more time to her family, according to a Park Service release.

-- From wire reports

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