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Briefs (right)

Congressman From Ohio Said
To Agree to Guilty Plea

By Philip Shenon
THE NEW YORK TIMES


WASHINGTON

Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, has agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges related to his dealings with the corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, lawyers and others with knowledge of the investigation said Thursday.

A guilty plea would make Ney, a six-term congressman, the first member of Congress to confess to criminal charges in the Abramoff investigation, which has focused on the actions of several current and former Republican lawmakers who had been close to the former lobbyist.

People with detailed knowledge of the investigation said Ney had entered an in-patient facility in recent days for treatment of alcoholism, making it uncertain whether he would appear at a court hearing to announce the plea. Lawyers and others would speak only anonymously because of concern they would anger prosecutors.

They said the agreement with the Justice Department — and the exact criminal charges, which are expected to include conspiracy and false statement — would be disclosed in Washington as soon as Friday and would probably require Ney to serve at least some time in prison.

Abramoff pleaded guilty in January to conspiring to corrupt members of Congress and other public officials. The scandal was among the factors that led Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, the former House Republican leader who had been close to Abramoff, to resign in June, his aides said at the time.

Dwarf Planet, Cause of Strife, Gains ‘The Perfect Name’

By Kenneth Chang
THE NEW YORK TIMES

One dwarf planet received a new name on Thursday from the International Astronomical Union, and another, Pluto, has a new number.

Eris is the new permanent name for the solar body formerly known as Xena, while Pluto’s new number reflects its loss of planetary status.

Dr. Michael E. Brown, a professor of planetary astronomy at the California Institute of Technology who discovered the distant ball of ice and rock that he nicknamed Xena and that had been designated 2003 UB313, chose the name Eris, after the goddess of discord and strife in Greek mythology.

“It is absolutely the perfect name,” Brown said, given the continuing discord among astronomers and the public over whether Pluto should have retained its planetary status.

In mythology, Eris ignited discord that led to the Trojan War.

“She causes strife by causing arguments among men, by making them think their opinions are right and everyone else’s is wrong,” Brown said. “It really is just perfect.”

Pluto, now that it is no longer a planet, has been assigned number 134340 in the catalog of minor planets. In 1999, the Minor Planet Center at the astronomical union had proposed assigning Pluto the number 10000 in the same catalog, to give it dual citizenship as both a planet and a member of the Kuiper Belt, a ring of icy debris beyond Neptune. Brian Marsden, director of the center, said the number was meant as special recognition for Pluto, but he withdrew the idea after protests from people who saw it as a demotion.

But the discovery last year of Eris, which is slightly larger than Pluto and had been regarded by some as the solar system’s 10th planet, led to the demotion and a minor-planet number after all.

Turkey, a Touchy Critic, Plans
To Put a Novel on Trial

By Susanne Fowler
THE NEW YORK TIMES


ISTANBUL, TURKEY

“If there is a thief in a novel,” said Elif Shafak recently, “it doesn’t make the novelist a thief.”

Yet, Shafak is due in court here on Sept. 21 to defend herself against charges that she insulted “Turkishness” because a character in her latest novel, “The Bastard of Istanbul,” refers to the deaths of Armenians in 1915 as genocide.

Shafak, a 35-year-old Turkish citizen who was born in Strasbourg, France, is being sued under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, the same law that ensnared Turkey’s best-known contemporary author, Orhan Pamuk, in 2005.

She is scheduled to give birth to her first child the week of the trial. A conviction carries a possible penalty of up to three years in jail.

The plaintiffs are vocal nationalists who she says oppose the government’s efforts to gain admission for Turkey, the only member of NATO with a largely Muslim population, into the European Union.

“I believe they want to derail the EU process because that would change many things in the structure of the state and the fabric of Turkish society,” Shafak, an assistant professor of Near Eastern studies at the University of Arizona, said in an interview. “They would rather have an insular, enclosed, xenophobic society than an open society.”

Anti-Abortion Group
Loses Tax Exemption

By Stephanie Strom
THE NEW YORK TIMES

The Internal Revenue Service this week revoked the tax exemption of an anti-abortion group, Operation Rescue West, after receiving a complaint that it had violated prohibitions on electioneering by nonprofits in 2004.

The group had promised tax deductions for contributions to help defeat the Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry.

But the organization said the ruling would have little impact on its operations.

“We have reorganized as simply Operation Rescue,” said Cheryl Sullenger, its outreach coordinator. “Losing our tax exemption doesn’t have much of an effect on us, one way or the other. We have learned some lessons through this whole thing, and I think we’re in a better place now than we were before the IRS investigation.”