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Around the Nation

- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 6, 2008

Barr to explore presidential bid

Former Republican Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia said yesterday he has formed a presidential exploratory committee and may seek the Libertarian Party nomination.

"America today faces a grave moral and leadership crisis, and those of us who care about our country's future can no longer sit on the sidelines and remain neutral," Mr. Barr told an audience at the Heartland Libertarian Conference in Kansas City, Mo.

The former Georgia congressman left the Republican Party in 2006 over its record under President Bush on spending and civil liberties.

In a video message posted to YouTube, Mr. Barr, 59, said, "America ... needs a real choice in 2008, and right now we don't have it."

He called Sen. John McCain "part of the problem, part of the status quo" and "more of the same." He dismissed Sen. Barack Obama as "an empty suit," and he said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is "no leader."

Mr. Barr became a darling of conservatives in the 1990s for his persistent criticism of President Clinton. He was among the first to press for impeaching Mr. Clinton and helped manage House Republicans' impeachment case before the Senate.

Polygamists block search for girl

ELDORADO, Texas — Sect leaders at a polygamist compound in West Texas refused yesterday to let authorities search a temple for a teenage girl whose report of abuse led to the raid, and authorities said they were preparing "for the worst."

If no agreement is reached with sect leaders, authorities will forcibly remove the sect's followers "as peaceably as possible," Allison Palmer, a prosecutor in Tom Green County, told the San Angelo Standard-Times.

Medical workers are being sent "in case this were to go in a way that no one wants," Ms. Palmer said. Law enforcers are "preparing for the worst," she said.

A search warrant authorized troopers to enter the retreat, run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They are looking for evidence of a marriage between the girl and a 50-year-old man.

Microsoft sets deadline for Yahoo

SEATTLE — Microsoft set the clock ticking for Yahoo to accept its $41 billion buyout offer in a letter to the Internet pioneer's board yesterday, warning that if a deal wasn't reached by April 26, the software maker would launch a hostile takeover at a less attractive price.

"If we have not concluded an agreement within the next three weeks, we will be compelled to take our case directly to your shareholders, including the initiation of a proxy contest to elect an alternative slate of directors for the Yahoo board," wrote Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer. "That action will have an undesirable impact on the value of your company from our perspective, which will be reflected in the terms of our proposal."

Mormons gather to install leader

SALT LAKE CITY — Mormons stood by the thousands with upraised hands yesterday, officially installing their first new leader in 13 years.

Thomas S. Monson took over The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in February after the death of Gordon B. Hinckley, but the faith traditionally calls for a sustaining vote by members in a ceremony known as the solemn assembly.

Each church organization took its turn standing when called to cast votes in the packed conference center, which holds 21,000 people. The ceremony has been practiced since 1880, when John Taylor was named president of the church.

Mormons last held an assembly in April 1995, when Mr. Hinckley was named president. Mr. Monson, 80, is the youngest church president since 1973 and the 16th president of the American-born denomination.

Colombia fires Clinton aide's firm

The Colombian government said yesterday it has fired Mark Penn's public relations firm after the chief campaign strategist for Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton apologized for meeting with Colombian officials pushing a trade deal with the U.S.

Mr. Penn had met with the Colombian ambassador March 31. Clinton advisers said the meeting was not connected to the campaign, but they made clear the candidate was not happy to learn about it.

Colombian officials said they terminated their contract with lobbying and public relations giant Burson-Marsteller in response to a statement released Friday by Mr. Penn, the firm's chief executive, who called the meeting an "error in judgment." Mrs. Clinton opposes the trade deal.

"The Colombian government considers this a lack of respect to Colombians and finds this response unacceptable," government officials said in a press release. The government will continue its push to have a free trade agreement with the U.S. ratified, they added.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.