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News Briefs

Immigration Officials to Focus On Middle Eastern ‘Absconders’


As part of a broad crackdown on illegal immigration following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, U.S. officials are targeting as the priority for deportation several thousand Middle Eastern men who have previously been ordered to leave the country.

The men, primarily from countries viewed as strongholds of the al-Qaida terrorist network, will be the first to have their names added to the FBI criminal database under a new strategy to capture fugitives who ignore deportation orders, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

Immigration officials last month announced plans to use the FBI computers as a way to help locate more than 300,000 people -- most from Latin America -- who have disappeared into U.S. society rather than be kicked out by immigration judges.

Law enforcement officials decided to focus first on the Middle Eastern men, putting their names at the top of the list.

“We can’t enter 314,000 names all at once. It’s going to take time. We had to prioritize,” a Justice Department official said.

New York Rejects Limits On Terrorism Insurance


New York state has rejected an attempt by insurers to back out of providing commercial insurance covering terrorist attacks.

The industry, reeling from the $70 billion cost of the World Trade Center strikes, was seeking to reduce its exposure to future attacks by limiting its liability to just $25 million.

The industry lobbied for the limit, since Congress failed to agree on a bill to provide backup for insurers in case of future acts of terrorism.

But the New York Insurance Department announced Tuesday it had opted against providing the industry with terrorism coverage “exclusions.”

“We don’t want to leave commercial property owners holding the bag,” said Joanna Rose, a spokeswoman for the department.

So far, New York and Alaska are the only two states to reject the industry’s request for exclusions.

Thirty-six other state insurance departments have agreed insurers would liable for a maximum of $25 million in case of future attacks.

Carriers Extend Steep Air Fare Discounts


Still losing millions of dollars a day, the United States’ major airlines are continuing to discount fares sharply to at least lure leisure travelers amid the post-Sept. 11 travel slump.

The two largest domestic airlines, American and United, had sales that were supposed to end Dec. 28 for travel until May 19. But with the busy Christmas travel season over, the cheaper tickets are still here, as the two airlines announced in full-page newspaper ads Tuesday. This time the sales -- still for travel until May 19 -- are to end Jan. 15.

Yet that date probably won’t mark the end of the savings boon for consumers, analysts said. There’s a strong chance the fare sales will linger well into the year, as the airlines strive to guarantee at least a minimum number of passengers before the summer.

It’s imperative the airlines do so because they can’t count on the steady income they once enjoyed from business fliers, who typically don’t book well in advance and thus pay higher fares and generate most of an airline’s revenues, observers said.