Nation digest 09/16/03

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Texas session opens with all Democrats present

AUSTIN, Texas -- A Democratic lawmaker broke ranks with his colleagues Monday and showed up for the opening of a special legislative session, giving Republicans the quorum they need to vote on a congressional redistricting plan. The rest of the Senate's Democrats joined him.

Democratic state Sen. John Whitmire arrived on the Senate floor about five minutes before the session started. His arrival gave Republicans the quorum they need to push a GOP-leaning redistricting plan, after Democrats successfully blocked votes in previous special sessions.

At issue is the shape of the state's congressional districts. Currently, Democrats have a 17-15 majority.

Suspect in drowning swerves into truck

MAITLAND, Fla. -- A man suspected of drowning his toddler daughter and attempting to drown his 4-year-old son killed himself when he swerved his sport utility vehicle into the path of a tractor-trailer, authorities said. His two other children were injured in the crash.

Police believe the drowning and crash that killed Bryan Christopher Randall are the result of a dispute with his estranged wife.

"I would say this is a domestic situation gone very bad," Maitland deputy police chief Gary Calhoun said.

The accident happened about eight miles north of the small lake where Randall's 2-year-old daughter Yanna and 4-year-old son Regal were found Sunday morning by a fisherman.

N.C. sheriff indicted on embezzlement charges

LEXINGTON, N.C. -- A sheriff known for such tough-on-crime tactics as pink jail cells and paramilitary uniforms was arrested at his office Monday on charges of embezzlement and obstruction of justice.

Davidson County Sheriff Gerald Hege was named in 15 indictments unsealed Monday in Superior Court; an additional 21 indictments remained sealed.

Hege also was suspended with pay and ordered not to contact anyone involved in the case or return to his office.

Hege's attorney, William Hill, declined to comment on the charges, saying he hadn't seen the indictments. He said Hege wouldn't make a public statement about the charges. Hege's bond was set at $15,000.

Snow, wind block South Pole rescue attempt

Snow and 48 mph winds grounded two planes Monday, delaying the rescue of a seriously ill man working at the United States' South Pole research station.

The Twin Otters, built to fly in rough weather, were flown over the weekend from the southern tip of Chile to the Rothera Air Station on Antarctica, where they were forced to wait because of bad weather, said Valerie Carroll, spokeswoman for Raytheon Polar Services of Centennial, Colo.

"This time of year in Antarctica is spring time, so the weather is quite challenging," Carroll said.

The ill employee works for Raytheon Polar Services, the logistics contractor that manages the U.S. Antarctic research program. The worker's name was withheld.

New unit to address unfair trade practices

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration, accusing China of a host of trade violations, announced Monday creation of a new Unfair Trade Practices Team inside the Commerce Department to address trade barriers that are costing American jobs.

Commerce Secretary Donald Evans also announced during his speech Monday to the Economic Club of Detroit that he will travel to China later this year to take up various complaints with the Chinese government.

Evans' announcements followed a series of 20 round-table discussions his agency has held around the country examining problems in manufacturing.

During those meetings, "no country raised more attention as a source of concern than China," Evans said.

-- From wire reports

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