State Department closes shortcut for Saudi visas

Sunday, July 21, 2002

WASHINGTON - People who want to visit the United States from Saudi Arabia no longer can apply for visas at travel agencies, the State Department said Saturday.

Saudi Arabia was the home country of 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers. Three of them got their U.S.

visas using Visa Express, the travel-agency shortcut that has come under fire in Congress.

Some lawmakers have been on the attack largely because of news reports of laxity by U.S.

consular officers in Saudi Arabia and allegations of a visa fraud at the U.S. Embassy in nearby Qatar.

Clark Kent Ervin, the State Department's inspector general, said last week that he has ordered a survey of the 207 U.S. posts abroad that issue visas to determine if any are going to unqualified applicants.

Democrat: Drug industry opposes price cutbacks

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., accused pharmaceutical companies and their political allies of trying to defeat legislation that would give older Americans a Medicare prescription drug benefit.

"They oppose allowing older Americans to come together to negotiate lower drug prices," Wellstone said Saturday in the Democrats' weekly radio address. "They continue to slip in special congressional loopholes to keep lower-priced generic drugs off the market."

The Senate has been debating two competing plans to provide a Medicare prescription drug benefit and is scheduled to vote on them Tuesday. Lawmakers have been meeting to try to craft a compromise because neither has the 60 votes needed for passage.

Both Medicare bills are being offered as amendments to a generic-drug bill that Democrats are using for the overall debate. Medicaid is the nation's health insurance program for the poor.

Accused priest suesæ Miami archdiocese

MIAMI -- A Roman Catholic priest who was accused of molesting two women sued the Archdiocese of Miami for ruining his reputation by publicizing the allegations.

The two women sued the Rev. Jan Malicki in 1998, claiming that he molested them at St. David Catholic Church in Davie. The archdiocese suspended Malicki, but Broward prosecutors never filed charges because they felt they couldn't win a conviction.

In his lawsuit filed Friday, Malicki said Archbishop John Favalora and Chancellor Tomas Marin authorized a church tribunal to review "secret accusations" against him in July 1998, then held a news conference later that month to announce Malicki was under criminal investigation.

The lawsuit also alleges that Marin sent Malicki a letter in February 2001 saying he had been cleared by the tribunal and the Broward state attorney's office -- but the archdiocese never reinstated him.

Virginia man opens fires on landing helicopter

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - A man armed with an assault-style rifle opened fire on a helicopter landing in a residential neighborhood, thinking the chopper was carrying terrorists, police said.

Helicopter pilot John S. Sutton landed his helicopter July 13 at the home of businessman John Peters to pick him up, police said.

John Chwaszczewski, a semiretired construction worker, became alarmed when he saw the chopper swoop down over his garage, about a block from Peters' home.

"Maybe I overreacted, but I did feel this was terrorism at its utmost," Chwaszczewski said.

Chwaszczewski told police the shooting was "a natural reaction," after having watched the events of Sept. 11.

A woman who identified herself as Sutton's wife said he would have no comment.

Sutton was charged Friday with recklessly operating an aircraft, a misdemeanor, deputy police chief Ken Middlebrook said. If convicted, he could face a month in jail.

--From wire reports

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