Lawmakers push plans for national Hispanic museum

By Wire services
Published April 4, 2006

WASHINGTON - A bipartisan group of Hispanic lawmakers is reviving plans to create a museum of Hispanic art, history and culture in the nation's capital.

The call for a national Hispanic museum comes as Congress continues a contentious debate over immigration, but sponsors said Monday they don't expect the project to be affected.

Florida Republican Mel Martinez, the only foreign-born member of the Senate, joined the push Monday, noting that Hispanic Americans are the largest demographic minority group in the country. The Cuban-born Martinez said, "The enrichment of American culture and society due to the Hispanic community ought not to go unnoticed."

The House version already has the backing of Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, all Miami Republicans.

Bomb threats force campus evacuations

PORTLAND, Maine - A bomb threat Monday forced the University of Southern Maine to evacuate all three of its campuses, temporarily interrupting class for thousands of students.

University spokesman Dan Davidson said someone phoned the office of the president and an office of a vice president about 9:30 a.m. saying there were two bombs on campus. Since the caller didn't specify a campus, university officials evacuated all three. Police searched the campuses in Portland, Gorham and Lewiston but found nothing and classes resumed at 4 p.m., the university said.

Shorter wait proposed to gain citizenship

WASHINGTON - Legal immigrants fluent in English could become U.S. citizens in four years rather than five under a proposal that could become part of a broad immigration bill.

The proposal by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., was at the top of the agenda as the Senate began a second week of debate Monday on tightening U.S. borders against illegal immigrants, increasing penalties on employers who hire them and on whether to let more than 11-million undocumented aliens stay or make them leave at some point.

An estimated 7.2-million legal permanent residents have lived in the United States long enough to become Americans, according to the Homeland Security Department's Citizenship and Immigration Services office.

Death penalty sought for repeat sex offenders

COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford announced support Monday for a bill that would make some twice-convicted sex offenders eligible for the death penalty.

The bill would make capital punishment an option for offenders convicted twice of sexually assaulting children under 11. Such crimes "can destroy for a long time, and maybe forever, that young person's ability to function, that young person's trust in older people, trust in others," Sanford said.

Last week, the state Senate approved the measure, which was included in a larger bill that sets minimum sentences and lifetime electronic monitoring for some sex offenders. The bill is now headed to the House.

Transit strike has Denver commuters scrambling

DENVER - Thousands of commuters scrambled to find rides to work Monday after transportation workers in the Denver area went on strike for the first time in 24 years, a move that halted rail service and shut down more than half the region's bus routes.

Highway officials said Denver thoroughfares ran smoothly during the morning rush but some off-ramps were backing up more than usual.

Striking workers were on the picket lines early Monday, some holding signs that read: "RTD put us on the street, but we'd rather be serving you."