In WashingtonBush's nominee for trade rep faces...

In Washington

Bush's nominee for trade rep faces Senate vote Tuesday


The U.S. Senate will vote Tuesday on whether to confirm former State Department official Robert Zoellick as the next U.S. trade representative, a spokeswoman for the Senate Finance Committee said yesterday.

If approved as expected, Zoellick would be the 13th holder of the office since it was created in 1962 and the last of President Bush's Cabinet-level nominees to be confirmed by the Senate.


The Senate Finance Committee is expected to give its OK on a voice vote before sending Zoellick's nomination to the Senate floor Tuesday for two hours of debate. Zoellick, who held key posts at the Treasury, State Department and White House during the previous two Republican administrations, has encountered no serious opposition to his nomination.

Thompson to focus first on organ donations

Tommy Thompson, who resigned Thursday as governor of Wisconsin to become Health and Human Services secretary yesterday, promised to launch a national campaign within 100 days to increase organ donation.

Speaking to HHS workers, Thompson called organ donation "an issue that is very close to my heart" and promised to do more to recognize families who donate organs of a loved one. Noting that more than 70,000 people are on the transplant waiting list, he promised "a national campaign to raise awareness of organ donation," though he gave no specifics.

As governor, Thompson aggressively fought the department's effort to equalize distribution of donated organs. Under the current system, organs are given to patients in a local area, even if a sicker potential recipient is hospitalized just over the border. Under President Bill Clinton, HHS tried to change that.

In the Nation

Groundhog gives forecast through his interpreter

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. - With temperatures just below freezing, flurries falling and lingering snow crunching underfoot, Punxsutawney Phil - the world's most famous groundhog - saw his shadow yesterday morning.


According to legend, that means winter will stick around for six more weeks. In the past 155 years, Phil has seen his shadow 101 times. Bill Cooper, president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle, was charged with interpreting Phil's predictions. He interpreted Phil's squeaks and body language after the groundhog exited from his hole.

Coast Guard Auxiliary pilots killed in crash

MIAMI - Two U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary pilots were killed when their plane crashed at sea off the Florida Keys during a training exercise, the Coast Guard said yesterday.

The pilots were civilian members of the volunteer auxiliary that helps the active-duty Coast Guard conduct searches, law enforcement operations and training. They were flying a single-engine Piper that disappeared Thursday night during a mission to train a Coast Guard Falcon jet crew on airplane intercept techniques, the Coast Guard said.

The victims were identified as Casey Purvis, 50, of West Palm Beach and Rob Fuller, 49, of Miami. Both bodies and the aircraft have been recovered.

Judge reprimanded for cartoon tickets


SANTA FE, N.M. - A judge has been reprimanded by the state Supreme Court for letting police draw happy or frowning faces on traffic tickets to describe a driver's attitude.

A judicial commission and the court agreed last month that allowing police to draw the cartoons on the judge's copy of a ticket constituted a one-sided, and therefore illegal, communication between officer and judge. The court found Municipal Judge Frederick Arnold guilty of willful misconduct, reprimanded him and assigned a retired judge to counsel him on the law.

Sotheby's fined $45 million in price-fixing case

NEW YORK - A federal judge yesterday accepted a guilty plea and imposed a $45 million fine on Sotheby's in a criminal price-fixing case, but deferred final approval of a $512 million class-action settlement for the auction house and its chief rival, Christie's.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan agreed to the $45 million fine proposed by New York-based Sotheby's Holdings Inc. and prosecutors, even though it fell below minimum federal sentencing guidelines, partly because Sotheby's alone faced criminal charges in the case.

Christie's International PLC cooperated with a government investigation into a price-fixing scheme over commissions that clients were charged, which reached the top echelons of the two art giants.


Anna Nicole Smith threatened with perjury

HOUSTON - Former Playboy centerfold model Anna Nicole Smith stormed from the courtroom in her late husband's inheritance trial this week as the judge threatened to have her investigated for perjury.

She testified for three days in the trial that pits Pierce Marshall against his disinherited brother, J. Howard Marshall III in a battle over multimillionaire father, J. Howard Marshall II's estate. He died in 1995.

Probate Judge Mike Wood threatened Smith with a contempt of court citation if she didn't stop repeating a string of unsubstantiated accusations against Pierce Marshall - including claims that he had his father and his father's former mistress killed. Smith had exploded in anger Wednesday when an attorney asked her to post bond to ensure she would be back Feb. 12 to resume her testimony.