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News Briefs

Administration Proposes Relaxing Clean Air Act Rules for Industry


In an overhaul of the Clean Air Act, the Bush administration proposed Thursday to relax rules that require a host of industries to strengthen pollution controls whenever they build new plants or expand old ones.

The changes, announced by Environmental Protectional Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, have been long sought by power companies, chemical companies, paper mill operators, and other major industries.

The EPA’s proposed revision of the so-called new source review program reflects concerns by businesses that the program is often difficult to interpret and creates uncertainty and costly delays. Those drawbacks sometimes impede plant upgrades, including use of energy efficient equipment, Whitman said.

Critics charge the EPA proposals give polluters too many breaks and are a product of intense political lobbying by industry representatives who worked last year with Vice President Dick Cheney to draft the administration’s national energy plan.

Padilla Attended Mosque With Alleged Terrorism Link


Jose Padilla, the American accused of plotting with al-Qaida to set off a radiation-dispersal bomb, frequented a Florida mosque whose spiritual leader worked for an Islamic charity suspected of helping finance terrorism, local Muslim leaders said Thursday.

Padilla, now under arrest in a U.S. Navy brig, is accused of plotting to detonate a “dirty bomb” capable of spewing radiation across an American city. During the 1990s, when he lived in Florida, he attended Al-Iman Mosque here while Raed M. Awad was the imam, members of South Florida Islamic community said.

Awad, a 42-year-old Palestinian immigrant, was the chief fund-raiser in Florida for the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief & Development, whose premises were raided and assets frozen by the U.S. government in December.

Padilla also took classes on the Koran and precepts of the Islamic faith at the Darul Uloom (House of Knowledge) Institute, an Islamic studies center in Pembroke Pines, Fla. Its principal, Maulana Shafayat Mohamed, said the young convert might have been pushed toward a more intolerant strain of his new religion through contacts with Arab Muslims.

Weather Brings Some Help, But Colorado Blaze Still Rages


The weather finally cooperated with crews battling a 100,000-acre wildfire south of Denver. Pilots attacked the blaze from the air, using borrowed military tankers, while nearly 1,000 firefighters made a stand on the ground Thursday, backed by long lines of fire engines.

“Things have been pretty quiet today. For the first time, they were able to get on it,” said Pam Devore of the U.S. Forest Service. It was the first day that firefighters were placed on the northern end of the fire, which had been burning out of control.

Even as they offered some good news, fire officials told beleaguered evacuees that it could take as long as three months to contain the fire, the largest in Colorado history.

The Hayman fire is now twenty miles long and fourteen miles wide, spreading north from Lake George about 80 miles southwest of Denver, burning to the city’s southern suburbs. More than 6,000 residents have been evacuated and thousands more remain on alert.