Nation briefs 12/16/04

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Charter schools get mixed review

WASHINGTON -- Underprivileged students in charter schools do worse in reading and math than their peers in mainstream schools, but children of the same race or ethnicity do as well in either type of school, according to a limited government study of fourth-graders. The Education Department review released Wednesday is the first to rate charter school performance based on how students performed on the federal test in reading and math in 2003.

Missile defense test stuck on ground

WASHINGTON -- An experimental interceptor missile failed to get off the ground in a test of the U.S. national missile defense system early Wednesday. In the test, a target missile, a simulated ICBM with a mock warhead, was launched without problem from Kodiak, Alaska, at 11:45 a.m., a statement from the Defense Department's Missile Defense Agency said. However, 16 minutes later, an "unknown anomaly" led to an automatic shutdown of the interceptor missile shortly before it was to launch from the Ronald Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean.

Congressman turns pharmacy lobbyist

NEW ORLEANS -- Retiring U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin, who left his post as head of the House committee that regulates the pharmaceutical industry earlier this year, will become head of the industry's top lobbying group next month. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America made the announcement of Tauzin's hiring on Wednesday. Tauzin's spokesman, Ken Johnson, confirmed the hiring, but said he had no immediate comment. Earlier this year, Tauzin had been talking with the trade group about a post-Congress job, but his negotiations were widely criticized by Democrats and government watchdog groups.

Fake bomb lost in Newark airport screener training

NEWARK, N.J. -- Baggage screeners at Newark Liberty International Airport spotted -- and then lost -- a fake bomb planted in luggage by a supervisor during a training exercise. Despite an hours-long search Tuesday night, the bag, containing a fake bomb complete with wires, a detonator and a clock, made it onto an Amsterdam-bound flight. It was recovered by airport security officials in Amsterdam when the flight landed several hours later.

Wrong address leads to death, injuries in N.Y. fire

NEW YORK -- A fire in a six-story apartment building early Wednesday killed one person and injured 31 others, and the mayor said firefighters were delayed because a caller reporting the fire gave the wrong address. Six people were in critical condition, three of them children. Six firefighters and five police officers were among the injured. A candle appeared to have been the cause of the fire, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Hardware chain hacker gets nine-year sentence

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- One of three Michigan men who hacked into the national computer system of Lowe's hardware stores and tried to steal customers' credit card information was sentenced Wednesday to nine years in federal prison. The government said it is the longest prison term ever handed down in a U.S. computer crime case. Brian Salcedo, 21, of Whitmore Lake, Mich., pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy and other hacking charges.

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