ELSEWHERE Friday, October 25, 2002 - Page 9 News from the nation, world Briefs By The Associated Press Northeast in stormy cycle Here's one very long-term weather forecast for the northeastern United States: increased storminess for the next 900 years. In fact, stormy weather appears to have been increasing already for the last 600 years, researchers reported in the Oct. 24 issue of the journal Nature. Geologists from the University of Vermont reached that conclusion after studying sedimentary layers from lakes in Vermont and eastern New York. They looked for layers of sediment that had been washed into the lakes during floods caused by rainstorms. By radiocarbon dating, they were able to determine when these stormy periods occurred over the last 13,000 years. They found that these storm- related floods appeared to occur in regular cycles peaking about 3,000 years apart, with the oldest peak some 11,900 years ago. Each stormy period has lasted about 1,500 years in all. Surf may be up at Presque Isle ERIE — Forecasters expect lousy weather on Lake Erie on Saturday, and that's great news for local surfers. If the winds and waves are right^ Presque Isle could hold its inaugural surfing competition this weekend. As many as 30 surfers from Buffalo, N.Y; Cleveland; and Ashtabula, Ohio and elsewhere hope to battle for trophies and glory in "The Batde of Lake Erie." The National Weather Service predicts that winds of 25 mph could whip waves of up to 2 to 4 feet in the morning and potentially 3 to 5 feet by early afternoon. Israelis enter West Bank town RAMALLAH, West Bank — Israeli soldiers entered the Palestinian town of Jenin today, taking over homes and exchanging fire with gunmen in one of the largest army operations in the West Bank since the summer. The raid came in response to a deadly bus bombing by two militants from Jenin earlier this week, and as a U.S. envoy wrapped up talks about a Mideast peace 'plan. In its first stage, until May, the plan seeks a truce, a Palestinian crackdown on militants, an Israeli troop puilback and Palestinian elections. Deadline passes for Halliburton DALLAS — As one deadline passed for Halliburton Co. and Vice President Dick Cheney, its former chairman and chief executive, to respond to a lawsuit filed by self-described government watchdog group, a second loomed today in another lawsuit. It was unclear whether Cheney and the company met the midnight Thursday deadline to answer the charges brought in July by Judicial Watch in a lawsuit accusing them of accounting fraud. The group accused Halliburton of using a change in accounting practices to overstate revenue from 1999 through 2001 by $445 million. By late afternoon Thursday, neither Halliburton nor Cheney had filed their responses at the federal district court in Dallas. Medicare cuts on horizon WASHINGTON — Bush administration officials say they have become deeply concerned I hat a cut in Medicare payments to doctors, to be announced next week, will prompt many doctors to limit their participation in the program, reducing access to health care for the ejderly. Medicare payments to doctors were cut 5.4 percent in January, and next week Medicare officials said they expect to announce a further cut of 4.4 percent, effective on Jan. 1. Asked to describe the likely effects, Thomas A. Scully, administrator of the Medicare program, said: "You'll have mad doctors. There will be'access problems, and seniors will feel it." Above: Carol Williams, seen here with a friend, Vince Hutchinson, was at one time married to John Allen Muhammad. Left: The car in which the two men were arrested was transported to a facility in Rockville, Md., for testing. (AP photos) Prosecutors mull charges in sniper case Death penalty differs from one state to another By DAVID DISHNEAU Associated Press Writer ROCKVILLE, Md. — Prosecutors in three states and the District of Columbia conferred today about who should prosecute the two suspects arrested in the deadly sniper attacks that terrorized the Washington area for 21 days. Testing on a high-powered rifle Mexicans flee as hurricane bears down By LISA J. ADAMS Associated Press Writer PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico — Soldiers and civil authorities evacuated thousands of people and closed schools and docks today as Mexico's Pacific coast braced for Hurricane Kenna, one of the strongest hurricanes to threaten the area in a generation. Kenna's 160 mph winds made it a Category 5 storm, the strongest class of hurricane and considered capable of causing catastrophic damage. The storm was roaring toward the shrimp-rich coasts of Nayarit state, well south of the Baja California Peninsula, where world leaders were gathering for a summit. "Based on the records, which go back 40 or 50 years, this would be one of the two or three strongest" hurricanes to' hit Mexico's Pacific coast, said Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Carmen Segura, head of the federal civil defense agency, said officials were trying to evacuate a three-mile wide strip of coast in Nayarit state, where the storm was expected to hit, and were shutting down highways. In the' fishing and tourist port of San Bias, close to the storm's forecast path, fishermen made last-minute efforts to tie down boats. A Hurricane warning was posted for the coast from Mazatlan, another tourist resort, southward to the port city of La Fortuna. The Hurricane Center said some weakening was expected before it hit land, but "Kenna is expected to be an extremely dangerous hurricane at landfall." Emergency officials evacuated about 10,000 fishermen and residents from 30 coastal communities around Mazatlan and ordered schools and docks closed today. Clyde James, a San Diego resident who has been coming here for 33 years, said he had no intention of let- ling Kenna ruin his vacation. "I love storms: the lightning, the thunder, the rain," said the 72-year- old James, who owns a beachfront condominium. "If it gets real bad we'll jusl get real drunk," he joked. found in the men's car, which had a hole bored in the trunk where a sniper could lie flat and shoot undetected, was the weapon used in at least 11 attacks, authorities said. John Allen Muhammad, 41, was ordered held without bail on a federal weapons violation Thursday, hours after he and 17-year-old John Lee Malvo were captured at a Maryland rest stop where they had been sleeping in their car. Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose said the two are considered suspects in attacks that killed 10 people and critically wounded three in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Two earlier shootings — one that damaged a store window in suburban Washington and another that killed a woman during a liquor store robbery in Alabama — are also believed linked to the case. Prosecutors from the jurisdictions where the shootings happened were discussing charges today. "I think the general consensus is that the case will be tried first in Montgomery County," Montgomery County State's Attorney Doug Gansler said. "We have the best evidence in the case; also the investigation was run -out of Montgomery County." One issue in deciding who prosecutes the two may be the death penalty. Maryland, where six victims were slain; Virginia, where three were killed; and Alabama all have the death penalty, but Maryland has had a moratorium on executions since May. Virginia, on the other hand, has executed more death-row inmates than any state but Texas. The states' laws also differ on age: A 17-year-old would be eligible for the death penalty in Virginia and Alabama but not in Maryland. Officials say a federal prosecution is unlikely because it appears there is no federal law that would make the sniper eligible for the death penalty. In court Thursday, U.S. District Court Magistrate Beth P. Gesner or- dered Muhammad held without bail at an undisclosed location on a charge of violating a 2000 restraining order that barred him from harassing or using force against his wife and children. His next scheduled court appearance is on Tuesday. Malvo, a Jamaican citizen, is considered a juvenile, so his federal court proceedings are closed. Malvo was being held as a material witness against Muhammad. Jim Wyda, Muhammad's attorney, noted that his client has been charged only with that firearms offense, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Report: U.S. unprepared for attack By KEN GUGGENHEIM Associated Press Writer WASHINGTON —The United States remains "dangerously unprepared" to deal with another major terrorist attack, said a report by former top government officials, academics and business leaders. "In all likelihood, the next attack will result in even greater casualties and widespread disruption to American lives and the economy" than the Sept. 11 attacks, said the task force chaired by former Sens. Gary Hart, D-Colo., and Warren Rudman, R-N.H. The report was released late Thursday. The report comes a week after CIA Director George Tenet warned that Osama bin Laden's ai- Qaida network is likely to strike against the United States sometime soon and that the current situation is similar to what existed before the Sept. 11 attacks. Tenet previously said a terrorist attack would be more likely if the United States takes military action against Iraq. Because a year has passed without a major terrorist attack against the United States, the report says, "there are already signs that Americans are lapsing back into complacency." Few of the ships, trucks and trains that enter What the report recommends • Establish 24-hour operations centers in all states.to provide terror watch list information. • Provide federal funds to clear the backlog of state and local government requests for protective gear, training and communications equipment. • Strengthen security for sea and land transportation. • Evaluate areas of vulnerability for energy supplies and develop a stockpile of backup components so energy operations could be restored if damaged. • Strengthen health agencies' ability to detect disease outbreaks. the United States each day are searched, the re- iport said. Emergency personnel are unprepared for chemical or biological attacks. Oil refineries and energy distribution lines could be sabo- taged. State and local police still lack access to State Department terrorist watch lists. "When it comes to combating terrorism, the police officers on the beat are effectively operating deaf, dumb and blind," it said. Rudman and Hart had led a previous commission whose warnings in January 2001 of the likelihood of catastrophic terrorist attacks seemed prophetic eight months later. That commission, created by Congress, said the threat of international terrorism was growing and recommended creating a domestic security agency. President Bush created a Homeland Security office shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks and has proposed creating a full Cabinet department, but Congress has not yet approved it. Hart and Rudman's latest panel was formed by the Council on Foreign Relations. Its 17 members included former Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and George Shultz, former FBI and CIA Director William H. Webster and retired Adm. William J. Crowe, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Office of Homeland Security is reviewing the council's report, said spokesman Gordon Johndroe. He said many of its suggestions are similar to what Bush has proposed. Amtrak increases security amid warnings WASHINGTON (AP) — Amtrak is increasing patrols of its trams and stations because of an FBI warning about a possible al-Qaida attack soon against passenger railroads. Officials said the warning, based on information obtained from al-Qaida prisoners in mid- October, suggested that terrorists may try to destroy bridges or key sections of tracks. "The group has considered directly targeting U.S. passenger trains, possibly using operatives who have a Western appearance," the FBI said Thursday in a statement issued to state and local law enforcers. Captured al-Qaida photographs of U.S. railroad engines, cars and crossings raised concern about the threat, the FBI said. The warning is the second this month. On Oct. 9, the FBI and several federal agencies oversee- ing high-risk sectors such as transportation, energy and agriculture sent warnings urging extra precautions. Amtrak President David Gunn said federal transportation officials told him about the warning. The passenger railroad is taking steps to enhance security, Gunn said, though he declined to describe them except to say riders won't notice them. Chechen rebels threaten to begin killing hostages MOSCOW (AP) — Chechen rebels threatened to begin killing their 600 hostages at dawn Saturday. The threat came shortly after Russia's top security official guaranteed the insurgents' lives if they freed all their captives. Daria Morganova, a spokeswoman for the theater where the hostages are being held, told The Associated Press the threat was reported by a hostage actor. It was not clear if the threat to begin killing the <hostatges was linked to the Russian offer of safe passage for the rebels. About an hour earlier, the head of the Federal Security Service, Nikolai Patrushev, said the 50 rebels' lives would be guaranteed for the freedom of all hostages — including 30 children and 75 foreigners. It was Russia's first known offer to the rebels since they took the hostages as they watched a popular musical production Wednesday night. There had been hope for a peaceful end to the standoff, when the rebels freed eight children. But negotiations broke down over the promised release of the foreign captives, including three Americans. Patrushev made the Russian offer after a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Russian news agencies reported. "We are conducting lalks and will conduct talks, hoping that they will bring positive results in freeing the hostages," Patrushev was quoted as saying by the Interfax agency. Further details of the Russian offer were not immediately available, and it was not clear if the guarantee had been transmitted to the Chechen rebels. The rebels, including several women, have demanded Russia withdraw its troops from the Caucasus province of Chechnya. Earlier, a Web site linked to the rebels said they would blow up the theater if the Russians did not withdraw in seven days. The freed children, dressed in winter coats and one of them clutching a stuffed bear toy with aviator goggles, appeared to be in good health as they were accompanied by Red Cross representatives. "The children were released without any conditions," said Dmitry Ro- gozin, chairman of the Russian parliament's international affairs committee, who served as a contact with representatives of foreign governments.
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