In Washington Amtrak withdraws threat to cut back...

NATIONAL DIGEST

April 06, 2002

In Washington

Amtrak withdraws threat to cut back long-distance service

Amtrak, seeing signs of help from Congress, backed away yesterday from its threat to issue notices that would allow it to cut its long-distance train network as early as this fall.

Instead, the railroad sent an update letter about its quest to win $1.2 billion in federal funds for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The letters went to governors of the 46 states Amtrak serves.

Amtrak President George Warrington wrote that he is encouraged by the response of lawmakers. But he reiterated that the 18 trains in its long-distance network are "at high risk" and said other routes could also be cut if Amtrak's appropriation is too low.

In the Nation

Suspected marijuana found on driver in day-care crash

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A bag of what appeared to be marijuana was found on the body of a day-care van driver who died in a crash that killed four children, officials said yesterday. Two children are hospitalized in intensive care.

The bag was found in the pants pocket of Wesley Hudson, 27, said Charles Cook, deputy police chief. Cook said an autopsy will determine whether Hudson had been smoking marijuana at the time of the crash.

Hudson and six children were in the Tippy Toes Learning Academy van Thursday when it smashed into the supports of a highway overpass on Interstate 240. State health officials said Hudson's prior drug conviction should have prevented him from transporting children.

Secret evidence allowed in Islamic charity's suit

CHICAGO - A federal judge refused yesterday to rule out secret evidence presented by the government in a lawsuit brought by an Islamic charity suspected of ties to terrorism.

The government froze assets of the Global Relief Foundation on Dec. 14 and confiscated many of its records. Global Relief wants U.S. District Judge Wayne Andersen to force federal officials to end the freeze tying up its money and give back its financial records. The charity denies having anything to do with terrorism.

Government attorneys presented secret evidence to Andersen in chambers March 14 without Global Relief attorneys on hand. Andersen denied a request from Global Relief that would have thrown out the evidence, which the government wants to remain secret for national security reasons.

New Mexico wildfire spreads to 37,000 acres

RESERVE, N.M. - A wildfire has charred 37,000 acres of national forest, consuming mostly grass and brush and burning past a cluster of cabins.

The fire was caused by lightning and spotted Sunday. It remained small until Wednesday, when it roared out of control and scorched 10,000 acres by that night.

Residents of 18 to 20 homes and cabins in the Elk Springs subdivision left voluntarily Wednesday. The area appeared to have been spared, but the flames threatened the homes again Thursday. By yesterday morning, the fire passed by the homes without doing damage. Firefighters continued to work on containment of the fire yesterday.

Priest accused of sex abuse in 1980 commits suicide

CLEVELAND - A Roman Catholic priest shot himself to death in his car three days after being accused of molesting a girl in 1980, authorities said yesterday.

The Rev. Don A. Rooney, 48, was found slumped over the wheel Thursday in a pharmacy parking lot in suburban Hinckley, a gunshot wound to the head. Cuyahoga County coroner Dr. Elizabeth Balraj ruled it suicide.

The priest left a note, "just to notify a family member," Balraj said.

NRC report says operators should have noticed leak

OAK HARBOR, Ohio - An acid leak that ate through a steel cap over a nuclear plant's reactor vessel should have been spotted as long as four years ago, according to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission report released yesterday.

Inspectors said there were many opportunities for the operator of the Davis-Besse plant to find the problem, which wasn't discovered until the plant was shut down in February for refueling.

The NRC said the damage did not pose a safety threat, but it did order operators of all 69 pressurized water reactors in the United States to submit information on the structural integrity of their plant's reactor heads.

N.Y. mayor is identified as $10 million donor

NEW YORK - Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who plans to cut city aid to museums, theaters and other cultural institutions, quietly dipped into his personal fortune and donated $10 million to help them out just before he took office.

The billionaire media executive donated the money to the Carnegie Corp. in December, a source with knowledge of the contribution said yesterday. A Bloomberg spokesman declined to comment.

When the Carnegie Corp. announced awards created by the donation Feb. 11, it said an anonymous benefactor had specified that the money help institutions "struggling in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks."

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