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In Washington

Inspector general of Postal Service criticized in report

The Postal Service's retiring inspector general hired a team-building consultant at $3,000 a day, held "mind-numbing" eight-hour working lunches and erupted in anger at a staff-produced film that she thought would upstage her presentation of accomplishments, a government report says.

The conduct of Karla Corcoran, whose retirement was announced Tuesday by the Postal Governors, was criticized in a 274-page report by the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency. Employees accused Corcoran of sending "snitches" to meetings to keep track of comments, of trying to hide meeting expenses and of authorizing purchase of a $4,500 executive treadmill in a headquarters that had a full gym.

Corcoran, the first postal inspector general, disputed all the accusations except the treadmill, saying the purchase was a mistake and she ordered the equipment returned.

Navajos are underpaid for pipelines, report says

Companies paid private landowners near the Navajo reservation in the Southwest nearly 20 times what Navajos got for the right to build pipelines across their land, a court-appointed investigator reported yesterday.

Such discrepancies and the destruction of records related to the deal are a failure of the Interior Department's legal duty to American Indian landowners to ensure fair payment for the use of their land, the report said.

"It is doubtful," wrote the investigator, Alan Balaran, that Navajos "are receiving 'fair market value' for leases encumbering their land. It is certain they are denied the information necessary to make such a determination."

In The Nation

Father accused of killing 3 children, burning house

DETROIT - A father is accused of shooting and killing three of his children and wounding another before setting their home on fire and fleeing on a bicycle, authorities said.

Anthony Lamar Bailey, 37, was apprehended yesterday as he walked on a freeway overpass. He was named in a warrant charging him with several counts, including first-degree murder, arson and assault with intent to commit murder.

Firefighters found the children in the basement of their burning home. They believe Bailey fled on a bicycle after the blaze started before 9 p.m. Tuesday. Sharnice, 11, her 3-year-old sister Ayana and 1-year-old brother Lamar died at the scene, said Deputy Police Chief Tara Dunlop.

The surviving child, Antonia Bailey, 9, who had been shot in the stomach, was taken to Sinai-Grace Hospital in critical condition, said Officer Christopher Cole. She was expected to survive, Dunlop said.

Shark blamed in death of California swimmer

AVILA BEACH, Calif. - A great white shark believed to be 15 to 18 feet long killed a woman as she swam at a beach in central California, preliminary autopsy results showed yesterday.

Deborah Franzman was attacked Tuesday while swimming 75 yards offshore alongside a group of seals, which often are preyed on by sharks. It was the first deadly shark attack in California in nearly 10 years. Bite marks on Franzman's legs were consistent with those seen in previous attacks by great white sharks, San Luis Obispo County sheriff's Lt. Martin Basti said.

Shark expert Robert Lea said the shark might have mistaken Franzman for one of the seals. "If you are a swimmer on the surface, you have a silhouette that looks like a marine mammal," he said. The beach, south of Morro Bay about 200 miles northwest of Los Angeles, was immediately closed to swimmers after the attack.

More homes evacuated as Montana fires spread

LINCOLN, Mont. - Hundreds of firefighters worked in rough terrain yesterday to stop two wildfires approaching this western Montana mountain community, even as another fire near Missoula forced 120 families to flee.

In all, firefighters were battling about three dozen large fires in the state, and officials said their resources were running low. For the second time in a week, a major blaze near Missoula forced evacuations when an 18,000-acre complex of fires 35 miles west of town mushroomed out of control. It was just one of the fires menacing Missoula and surrounding smaller communities.

Jim Costamagna, a state fire program specialist, said conditions were among the worst that fire managers have seen. The largest three dozen fires in Montana alone have burned about 300,000 acres at a firefighting cost of more than $100 million. About 10,000 firefighters were trying to keep up with the blazes.

Tampa, Fla., police drop face-recognition system

TAMPA, Fla. - Civil-rights advocates celebrated a decision by police to scrap a much criticized face-recognition software system that scanned the city's entertainment district. After two years, it yielded no positive identifications and no arrests.

"It was of no benefit to us, and it served no real purpose," Capt. Bob Guidara said yesterday.

In June 2001, Tampa became the first city in the nation to install the software to scan faces in the Ybor City nightlife district and check them against a database of more than 24,000 felons, sexual predators and runaway children. But critics said it violated privacy rights, forcing people, without their consent, into what amounted to an electronic police lineup.

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