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Nation in brief

9/11 panel to praise city's rescue efforts

By wire services
Published May 18, 2004

NEW YORK - In the years since the Sept. 11 attacks, a rising chorus of New Yorkers has demanded a tough-minded investigation of the city's emergency response, a public airing of shortcomings that would assign responsibility for a series of systemic flaws.

They may be disappointed when the national commission investigating the attacks meets today in a university auditorium in Greenwich Village.

The commission is expected to describe serious gaps in communication and coordination between the police and fire departments. But members of the commission and others familiar with its work said it would also seek to dispel what they called misconceptions that cast the city's rescue efforts in a poor light.

What's more, New York's efforts to improve emergency response since Sept. 11 will be cited as a national model, despite charges from victims' family members, firefighters and others that poor communication and cooperation between the police and fire departments have not improved, commission members said.

The 10-member bipartisan panel is to issue its final report July 26.

Democrats sue for cost estimates of Medicare bill

WASHINGTON - Democratic lawmakers filed a federal lawsuit Monday in an effort to force the Bush administration to turn over estimates of the cost of last year's Medicare legislation.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, hometown of Rep. Henry Waxman, one of 19 Democrats challenging the administration's refusal to provide the documents.

They are relying on a 1928 law that they say enables seven lawmakers who serve on the same committee to obtain information from the administration.

The Department of Health and Human Services said last month that Democrats have no right to review its estimates that the Medicare overhaul would cost substantially more than the amount disclosed last year by President Bush and the HHS secretary. U.S. to abide by global toxic chemicals treaty

WASHINGTON - A global treaty phasing out a dozen highly toxic chemicals took effect Monday without the United States, though the Bush administration promised to abide by it.

The U.S. has signed the treaty, but the Senate has yet to ratify it, and Congress hasn't passed legislation to carry it out because of a disagreement over whether to add more toxic chemicals to the ban later. Nevertheless, the United States will comply with it "wherever we have the current legal authority," said Claudia McMurray, deputy assistant secretary of state for environment.

The United Nations-sponsored Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, or POPs, aims to ban or severely restrict 12 chemicals commonly known as the "dirty dozen." Among them are dioxins and DDT, a pesticide.

The toxic chemicals tend to persist in the environment, travel long distances and accumulate in the food chain.

Although the chemicals are banned from production for use in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the authority to ban any U.S. chemical manufacturers from exporting them, McMurray said.

The administration, she said, will "push very hard in the next few months" to get Congress to approve legislation.

F-16 fighter jets collide over rural Indiana

OAKTOWN, Ind. - Two F-16 fighter jets collided Monday over Indiana during training, killing one of the pilots, the Air National Guard said. The other pilot parachuted to safety.

One of the planes crashed in rural Illinois, while the other came down in a farm field in Indiana, authorities said. The fighter jets were from Terre Haute, about 40 miles north of Oaktown, and were in airspace reserved for military training near the Indiana-Illinois state line, National Guard Capt. Lisa Kopczynski said.

A spokesman for Gov. Joe Kernan identified the pilot who was killed as Maj. William E. Burchett. The other pilot's name was not immediately released.

Also . . .

$3.5-MILLION CELLO BACK: A 17th century cello made by master craftsman Antonio Stradivari that was stolen from a musician's home has been recovered, but no arrests have been made, Los Angeles police said Monday.

[Last modified May 17, 2004, 23:21:09]

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