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Nation in brief

ACLU, Arab groups file challenge to Patriot Act

By Times Wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 31, 2003

DETROIT - The ACLU filed suit in Detroit on Wednesday, challenging the FBI's power to search homes and rifle through private records without notification.

The suit is believed to be the first constitutional challenge to the federal Patriot Act, passed by Congress to fight terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The American Civil Liberties Union says that Section 215 of the act is particularly dangerous.

Under that provision, FBI agents don't need a search warrant or even probable cause or suspicion of a crime to look at personal medical records, Web site visits, church, mosque or synagogue attendance, political membership and other information.

Also, the act forbids people who know about the searches from ever revealing who was searched.

In the suit, the ACLU says the Patriot Act violates the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, which protects free speech, and the Fourth Amendment, which forbids unreasonable searches. The suit names as defendants John Ashcroft, the head of the Department of Justice, and Robert Mueller, head of the FBI.

The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of six groups that work for Arab Americans and Muslims.

Bush, Democrats duel on Medicare anniversary

WASHINGTON - President Bush and congressional Democrats Wednesday used Medicare's 38th anniversary to promote their rival visions of its future, with each side seeking to reap credit as the true protector of the popular health insurance program.

In dueling events at the White House and the U.S. Capitol, the president and Democratic senators pledged to work to forge a compromise on Medicare legislation passed last month by the House and the Senate.

"We expect to plow through the doubt and the obstacles and get a good bill to the president's desk," Bush said in an East Room ceremony. Beyond the goal of completing Medicare legislation this year, Bush and the Democrats agreed on little. The president, as he has for the past two years, said older patients should be given a choice of care through competing HMOs, preferred-provider networks and other private health plans. The senators said the House bill, written by the GOP, eventually would dismantle the original, fee-for-service Medicare program.

No plans to cut number of air marshals, TSA says

WASHINGTON - The Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday that it had no plans to cut the number of air marshals even as it warned of intelligence indicating al-Qaida might be plotting more airline hijackings.

The agency, criticized for having a bloated budget, had sent to Capitol Hill a plan to cut $104-million from the program for the rest of the federal fiscal year, through Sept. 30. Spokesman Brian Turmail said the proposal involved delaying some training and the hiring of support staff, not layoffs.

Truck bursts into flames, killing 1, injuring 12

INDIANAPOLIS - A truck traveling down a busy freeway with a crew of painters was engulfed in flames in a blaze that may have been started by a cigarette igniting fumes from paint thinner or lacquer. One man was killed and 12 others riding with him in the back of the truck were critically burned.

Witnesses said the workers piled out of the truck screaming, their clothing on fire and their lungs seared by toxic fumes. Passers-by poured bottled water on the men to soothe their burns until ambulances arrived.

Prosecutor will seek retrial in video beating case

LOS ANGELES - Prosecutors said Wednesday they will seek a retrial in the case of a white former police officer who was videotaped punching and slamming a handcuffed black teen onto a squad car.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said he would ask the judge to schedule a new trial within 60 days. A jury in the first trial deadlocked Tuesday on whether Jeremy Morse was guilty, and a judge declared a mistrial.

"It is important for the community that this case be resolved," Cooley said.

Texas parole board asks for Tulia pardons

LUBBOCK, Texas - The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has recommended pardons for 35 people who were convicted of drug charges on the word of an undercover agent who has since been discredited.

Board Chairman Gerald Garrett said all 18 members of the board recommended a pardon in each case for the 35 people arrested in the town of Tulia.

Ark. emergency chief quits over e-mailed poem

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Arkansas' top emergency official resigned Wednesday for sending his 66 employees an e-mail poem making fun of immigrants and welfare recipients.

Gov. Mike Huckabee's office said that it accepted W.R. "Bud" Harper's apology and resignation.

"The forwarded e-mail was neither humorous nor acceptable," Huckabee said.

Harper said earlier that he received the verse, titled "Illegal Poem," from someone else and sent it along because he found it humorous.

Among the poem's lines: "Welfare checks, they make you wealthy, Medicaid it keep you healthy." Another line accuses immigrants of bilking the system: "By and by, I got plenty of money, Thanks to you American dummy."

Also . . .

PETERSON CASE DOCUMENTS: Search warrants and other documents from the Laci Peterson case must remain sealed to ensure Scott Peterson gets a fair trial, a Calif. appeals court ruled Wednesday. The 5th District Court of Appeal said the release of the documents would be followed by massive media coverage, including commentary on television predicting strategies and outcomes. The documents are usually made public 10 days after a police search.

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  • Nation in brief
  • ACLU, Arab groups file challenge to Patriot Act

  • World in brief
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