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Nation in brief

Ana still doesn't know it's April

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 23, 2003


MIAMI -- The first Atlantic tropical storm of the year formed Tuesday, more than five weeks before the hurricane season officially begins.

Subtropical storm Ana became a tropical storm Tuesday when it gained strength and its center became more organized, but it still posed no threat to land as it churned in the open Atlantic, well away from Bermuda and the U.S. coast, forecasters said.

Ana's winds increased from 40 mph to 50 mph Tuesday, said hurricane specialist James Franklin with the National Hurricane Center in Miami. At 5 p.m., Ana was moving east at 17 mph and threatened only ships.

Ana is the first tropical storm to develop in April since recordkeeping began in 1871, but others have developed as early as January, Franklin said. Still, forecasters said it is rare for a tropical storm to develop this far outside the Atlantic season, which begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

Student investigators say lawyer was Deep Throat

WASHINGTON -- Attempting to solve one of America's greatest political mysteries, student investigators at the University of Illinois have concluded that former White House lawyer Fred Fielding is the Deep Throat who broke the Watergate scandal wide open.

Some of the students and their teacher, Bill Gaines, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for the Chicago Tribune, named Fielding as their choice for Deep Throat in a news conference at the Watergate Hotel, site of the famed break-in at the Democratic National Committee nearly 31 years ago.

Using 16,000 pages of FBI documents and other Watergate records, Gaines and his students said that Fielding knew about or likely would have known about many of the key Watergate revelations that Bob Woodward and his Washington Post colleague Carl Bernstein made in their news stories that won them a Pulitzer Prize.

"If it wasn't Fielding, I don't see how it could have been anybody else," Gaines said.

Harmless powder empties Wash. postal center

TACOMA, Wash. -- A Postal Service center was evacuated Tuesday after a preliminary test indicated white powder found among some envelopes might be toxic. Later tests found no signs of a harmful biological substance.

Nearly 100 people were cleared from the building after the powder was found about 12:45 a.m. on a table where mail is processed, fire Capt. Jolene Davis said. The center was expected to reopen Tuesday night.

IN FLORIDA: Six Postal Service workers were taken to a hospital in Fort Myers after they were exposed to an unknown white powder when they opened a mail container unloaded from a FedEx plane at Southwest Florida International Airport.

Gerry McKiernan, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Washington, said Tuesday night that tests on the substance found there also were negative.

Ga. Senate votes to change flag, but . . .

ATLANTA -- The Georgia Senate voted Tuesday to give the state its third flag in just over two years, but not before fixing typos in the bill that could lead to the legislation's defeat.

The Senate approved a temporary flag that could become permanent depending on a referendum next year. But the Senate also fixed typos that would have made the flag a foot longer than other state flags.

The changes mean the flag bill must return to the House, where black lawmakers -- with just one legislative day remaining -- pledge to filibuster the measure, likely killing it for this session.

Even if the new flag clears the House and is adopted, it must be approved by voters next March. If it fails, the state would hold another referendum with two choices -- an early Georgia flag or the Confederate banner adopted by the all-white Legislature in 1956, not long after the federal government ordered public schools desegregated.

If the legislative session expires with no flag bill, it could die until next year or it could be revived in a possible special session on the budget.

'Columbia' investigators to firm up hypothesis

HOUSTON -- Columbia investigators said Tuesday they are growing more certain of what brought down the shuttle: A seal on the left wing was struck by foam during liftoff and fell off the next day, creating a gap that let in enough scorching gases during re-entry to rip the ship apart.

"For 11 weeks, we have been saying that we don't have any particular scenarios, any favorite scenarios," said retired Navy Adm. Harold Gehman Jr., chairman of the investigation board. "But I think 11 weeks into this, it's time that we attempted to see where the evidence was pointing us," and so the board will meet with NASA officials later this week to begin reaching a hypothesis.

The final report is not expected until midsummer.

Navy Rear Adm. Stephen Turcotte, a board member, said it is still too soon to say that is exactly what happened, but the evidence is pointing strongly in that direction.

"To say it was, in fact, a T-seal 100 percent, we suspect that," Turcotte said. "I mean, we're up there. We're up there near the 70s and 80s percent."

Nation's oldest person dies at 113 in Calif.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The nation's oldest person, a 113-year-old woman who witnessed the aftermath of the great San Francisco earthquake, enjoyed junk food and lived alone until she turned 102, has died.

Mary Dorothy Christian died Sunday. She had come down with a cold that turned into pneumonia, said nurse Ester Aballa.

Christian was born June 12, 1889, in Taunton, Mass.

The oldest living American is now Elana Slough, 113, of New Jersey, who was born 26 days after Christian, according to the UCLA School of Medicine, a member of the research group which tracks the ultra-old.

Elsewhere . . .

CDC ISSUES SARS WARNINGS AT CANADIAN BORDER: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday it will begin issuing health warnings to everyone who enters the United States from Toronto, the epicenter of an outbreak of the deadly respiratory disease known as SARS, which has killed 14 people in Canada.

WHITE HOUSE RESUMES TOURS: With war winding down, limited public tours of the White House resumed Tuesday. The White House renewed its practice of scheduling tours for school, youth, military and veterans' groups.

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