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News Briefs

House Overwhelmingly Approves Overhaul of Immigration Service


Capping years of frustration, the House voted Thursday to overhaul the beleaguered Immigration and Naturalization Service, splitting up its law enforcement and service roles into separate bureaus within the Justice Department.

The bill passed 405-9, reflecting overwhelming support to straighten out an agency that has become legendary for bureaucratic incompetence, most recently when it notified a Florida flight school that two of the Sept. 11 terrorists had been approved for U.S. residency -- six months after they bombed the World Trade Center.

“It is beyond time to restructure one of the worst-run agencies in the federal government,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., the bill’s sponsor. INS, he said, stood for “Ignoring National Security” or “Incompetent and Negligent Service.”

The Senate could begin to consider its own version of INS overhaul as early as next week. While lawmakers still differ over details, the broad goal of reshaping the nation’s immigration service sparks little controversy and may be one of the least disputed goals of Congress this year.

Church Initiative on Abuse Gets Mixed Reviews


The leaders of the U.S. Catholic Church who headed home from Rome Thursday after two days of meetings with Pope John Paul II can expect a mixed reception to the communique they issued on the problem of sexual abuse by priests, according to interviews with a range of church experts.

American Catholics should be reassured that measures will be taken against sexual abuse by priests, some said, but several noted that the meetings did nothing to satisfy widespread demands that the American hierarchy take responsibility for the sexual abuse scandal. Most agreed the prelates will need to move decisively to adopt a more clear-cut policy at a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas in June.

“I think people will respond positively to what they did (in Rome), but they will want more,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of the influential Jesuit magazine “America.”

SEC Probing Charges Of Analyst Misconduct


The Securities and Exchange Commission jumped into the swelling stock-analyst controversy on Thursday, saying it has launched a formal investigation into whether Wall Street researchers intentionally misled investors during the 1990s bull market.

Some critics said the SEC looks like it’s coming late to the game, and was pushed to take a bigger role in the wake of the startling allegations about analysts’ conduct made public by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer this month.

The SEC said it has looked into analyst practices on an informal basis over the last year, but conceded that it is pursuing an official probe based on recent revelations about analyst behavior.

A formal inquiry lets SEC lawyers issue subpoenas to those under investigation vs. simply requesting information from them.

The SEC announcement underscores the degree to which analyst conduct has become a hot-button issue on Wall Street and in Washington.