Nation digest 01/11/05

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Bush extends welcome to new Palestinian leader

WASHINGTON -- President Bush offered Monday to meet at the White House with newly elected Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and planned to talk to him by telephone this week, putting out a welcome mat that was never there for Yasser Arafat. Still, Bush gave no sign that he was relenting in the demands he had made of Abbas' late predecessor -- that the Palestinian leader fight terror against Israel and put together a strong security system to support that stance. Proposals by Europeans and others that Bush jump in quickly to press for an Israeli rollback on the West Bank apparently did not impress the administration, despite the emergence of a Palestinian leader who has called for an end to the violent uprising against Israel.

Lawmakers: U.N. audits ignore key questions

WASHINGTON -- Newly released U.N. audits of the oil-for-food program leave unanswered questions about whether Saddam Hussein used the program to illegally raise billions of dollars, congressional leaders said Monday. Lawmakers had repeatedly demanded that the United Nations turn over more than 50 internal audits on the program, suspecting they would provide evidence that the former Iraqi president manipulated the humanitarian program with the help of corrupt or inept U.N. overseers. While finding repeated examples of overpayments to contractors and the mismanagement of purchases, the audits released Sunday didn't tackle the corruption issues at the heart of the matter or address the broader issues of U.N. oversight and of the program's contracting and banking procedures.

Schwarzenegger takes hard line on spending

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a $111.7 billion no-new-taxes budget Monday and proposed to close a $9 billion deficit by borrowing money and holding the line on spending growth throughout state government. The governor's budget plan, his second since taking office in 2003 after a recall election, calls for borrowing nearly $4 billion and relies heavily on an expected improvement in California's economy. Schwarzegegger, who is required to submit a balanced budget, promised his budget would not feature the accounting tricks that were used to paper over deficits in the past.

Navy: U.S. nuclear sub struck natural feature

HAGATNA, Guam -- A U.S. nuclear submarine that ran aground over the weekend appears to have struck a natural feature on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, a Navy spokesman said Monday. Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis said an initial investigation turned up nothing to indicate the USS San Francisco struck anything but a large rock, land or other natural feature as it conducted underwater operations about 350 miles south of Guam. Davis added there were no reports of damage to the submarine's nuclear reactor, and the vessel made its way back to its home port in Guam Monday under its own power. One sailor was killed.

Library of Congress puts Civil War maps on Net

WASHINGTON -- Civil War buffs are getting access to a treasure trove of information -- thousands of original maps and diagrams of battles and campaigns between 1861 and 1865, all posted on the Internet. The Library of Congress is posting 2,240 maps and charts and 76 atlases and sketchbooks, while The Virginia Historical Society and the Library of Virginia are adding about 600 items. Much of the collection is online now; the rest will be by the spring. The items depict troop positions and movements, as well as fortifications. Items already posted can be seen at:

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