FAA called slow to make copters safe

WASHINGTON : A federal safety panel says aviation officials are not acting quickly enough on proposals to prevent crashes of emergency medical helicopters. The five-member National Transportation Safety Board urged the Federal Aviation Administration in January 2006 to take steps to improve the safety of emergency medical helicopter flights. The safety board wanted the FAA to improve procedures for medical helicopters, evaluate flight risks, require onboard crash-warning technology and set policies for securing weather updates. At a meeting yesterday, the board acknowledged that the FAA is working on the proposals, but not quickly enough. Over the past 11 months, nine emergency medical helicopters have crashed, killing 35 people.


White supremacist plot clumsy, officials say

BELLS, Tenn.: Two white supremacists charged with plotting to behead blacks across the country and assassinate Barack Obama while wearing white top hats and tuxes probably were too disorganized to carry out the plot nd their planning was riddled with blunders, authorities said. Paul Schlesselman, 18, of Helena-West Helena, Ark., and Daniel Cowart, 20, of Bells are accused of dreaming up the plan. While authorities say they had guns capable of creating carnage, documents show they never got close to getting off the ground. Among the blunders: They drew attention to themselves by etching swastikas on a car with sidewalk chalk, only knew each other for a month, couldn't pull off a house robbery and were exposed to authorities by a friend.


Quake kills dozens in southwest Pakistan


A strong earthquake struck parts of southwestern Pakistan early today, killing at least 80 people, officials said. The quake struck just after 4 a.m. in Balochistan, an impoverished province bordering Afghanistan. It had a preliminary magnitude of 6.4, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. A local mayor said many houses were damaged. The quake was centered about 400 miles southwest of the capital, Islamabad. Pakistan is prone to violent seismic upheavals.

Iraqi sentenced to hang in U.S. soldiers' deaths

BAGHDAD : An Iraqi militant accused of killing three American soldiers in a grisly checkpoint ambush was convicted yesterday and sentenced to death by hanging. Two other men accused in the 2006 deaths were acquitted. The case marked the first time an Iraqi investigative judge sent a case involving an Iraqi killing of specific Americans to trial. The soldiers were ambushed June 16, 2006, while at an isolated checkpoint near the Euphrates River. One soldier was found dead at the site of the checkpoint. The two other 101st Airborne Division soldiers were kidnapped. Their mutiliated bodies were found three days later. Ibrahim al-Qaraghuli, a 29-year-old farmer, was convicted in the deaths of David J. Babineau, 25, of Springfield, Mass.; Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston; and Pfc. Thomas Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore.

Syria shuts U.S. school in response to raid

DAMASCUS, Syria : The Syrian government ordered an American school and a U.S. cultural center in Damascus closed yesterday in response to a deadly U.S. attack on a village near the Iraq border, the state-run news agency said. U.S. officials said the raid killed a top operative of al-Qaida in Iraq, but Syria and the Iraqi government criticized the raid. Also, freshly evaluated soil and air samples from a Syrian site bombed by Israel on suspicion that it was a covert nuclear reactor provide enough evidence to push ahead with a U.N. probe, diplomats said yesterday. The results are scheduled to be made public at the International Atomic Energy Agency's meeting of its 35-nation board of governors next month.

Scientists dispute FDA assurances on chemical


WASHINGTON: The Food and Drug Administration's assurances that a controversial chemical is safe for use in food containers are badly flawed, an independent panel of scientific advisers concluded in a report released yesterday. The chemical, known as bisphenol A, is used to make plastic for food packaging, baby bottles and other consumer and medical goods. The advisers found that the FDA had not considered all available, credible scientific evidence.