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Briefs (left)

Ex-Aide Tells of Warning
Speaker’s Office About Foley

By Jeff Zeleny

A longtime aide to former Rep. Mark Foley testified before the House ethics committee for nearly five hours on Thursday, repeating under oath his account of having explicitly warned Speaker Dennis Hastert’s office at least three years ago that Foley should be told to keep his distance from congressional pages.

The aide, Kirk Fordham, was the first sworn witness to appear before the bipartisan ethics panel, which is investigating whether any Republican leaders knew about Foley’s conduct, which was ultimately exposed in a series of sexually explicit exchanges with former pages, and whether anything was done about it.

“Kirk has been forthcoming with them,” said Tim Heaphy, a lawyer representing Fordham, speaking to reporters as he walked from the committee room. “He’s been consistent throughout.”

Iran Still Refusing to Halt
Nuclear Development

By Nazila Fathi

The Iranian leadership is vowing to continue to defy an international demand to stop nuclear activities while refusing to condemn North Korea for its reported test of a small nuclear bomb.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in a speech on Tuesday that Iran would continue its uranium enrichment program, asserting, as other senior Iranian leaders have done, that the program was intended for peaceful civilian purposes.

He said the decision was made easier by the fact that Iran voluntarily suspended enrichment three years ago, a cooperative gesture that proved fruitless. “If we had not experienced that path, perhaps we would have criticized ourselves today,” he said. “But now we will pursue with a strong heart.”

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech on Tuesday that Iran would “continue its path of dignity based on resistance, wisdom and without fear.”

The government spokesman, Gholam Hossein Elham, while saying “Iran opposes any use of weapons of mass destruction,” nevertheless blamed the United States for the nuclear test that North Korea said it conducted Monday. “The root cause of this should be sought in the policy, behavior and method adopted by the rulers of the United States,” he said Tuesday in his weekly news conference.

Simpler Form Created to
Aid Storm Victims

By Ralph Blumenthal

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Thursday that it had greatly simplified the form for evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to reapply for extended rent subsidies.

About 30,000 evacuee households — most of them in Texas — are still eligible for housing aid, which had been extended to 18 months after the disasters. The extensions are to Feb. 24, 2007, for Hurricane Katrina evacuees, and to March 28, 2007, for Hurricane Rita evacuees.

But recipients had to fill out a lengthy application to re-certify their eligibility. Because of the paperwork and the loss of personal records, “the number of households responding has been far less than anticipated,” FEMA said in a statement.Now the agency has come up with a one-page form that allows applicants to declare that assistance is still needed.

“It’s the most beautiful form I’ve ever seen,” said Bob Fleming, vice president for program services at Catholic Charities in Houston and a leader of the Metropolitan Organization, a group working with hurricane evacuees, including 25,000 households in Texas, where most of the storm victims fled.