Friday, October 15, 2004

Rove testifies in CIA leak probe

President Bush’s top political adviser, Karl Rove, testified yesterday before a federal grand jury trying to determine whether an administration official leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer.

Mr. Rove spent more than two hours testifying before the panel, according to an administration official who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because such proceedings are secret.

Before testifying, Mr. Rove was interviewed at least once by investigators probing the leak. Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney also have been interviewed in their offices, with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez and spokesman Scott McClellan among the administration officials appearing before the grand jury.

The investigation focuses on who disclosed the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame to syndicated columnist Robert Novak. He named her in a newspaper piece on July 14, 2003.

Mr. Novak’s column appeared after Mrs. Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, wrote a newspaper opinion article criticizing Mr. Bush’s assertion that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger — a claim the CIA had asked Mr. Wilson to check out. Mr. Wilson has said he believes his wife’s name was leaked as retribution.

Graduation streaker gets jail time

TOWANDA, Pa. — A high school graduate was sentenced to up to two years in jail for streaking the graduation ceremony from which he had been excluded.

Russell Chmieleski, 18, pleaded guilty to first-degree indecent exposure and must serve six months to two years. Because the charge is a misdemeanor, he can stay in a county jail, rather than state prison.

The first-degree charge was made because children were in the crowd when Chmieleski ran across the football field where the Towanda High School graduation ceremony was held in June.

Police said Chmieleski was upset that school officials excluded him from the ceremony because he graduated in January.

Backwards drawings made for Genesis craft

LOS ANGELES — The NASA spacecraft that smashed into the Utah desert last month while bringing home fragile samples of the sun may have been doomed by engineering drawings that had been done backwards, an investigating board said yesterday.

Because of the backward drawings, the switches that were supposed to detect the spacecraft’s re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere and trigger its parachutes were placed incorrectly, said Michael G. Ryschkewitsch, chairman of the board.

The design drawings were produced by Lockheed Martin Astronautics, which built Genesis for NASA. How the mistake escaped detection is under investigation.

The capsule spent three years in space but slammed into the Utah desert Sept. 8 at nearly 200 mph after its parachutes failed to open. Scientists are optimistic its samples can be used.

Snowmobile ban struck down

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A federal judge yesterday struck down a ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, calling it a “prejudged, political” move that sought to exclude the vehicles from all national parks.

U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer ruled that the Clinton-era ban was invalid because it did not involve adequate public participation and failed to follow federal law. His decision could clear the way for new rules that allow the machines.

The rule was “the product of a prejudged, political decision to ban snowmobiles from all the national parks,” Judge Brimmer wrote.

The National Park Service was expected to issue new snowmobile rules next month.

Plane crashes at Miramar Air Show

SAN DIEGO — An aerobatic plane crashed in front of about 300 spectators during an air show at a Marine base yesterday, killing a civilian test pilot.

Sean deRosier, 31, was among the first performers to take to the air on the first day of the three-day Miramar Air Show.

He took off in his single-engine plane — fitted with devices in the wingtips to produce extra smoke during stunts — and failed to pull out of a steep dive.

No one on the ground was hurt. Mr. deRosier was taken by helicopter to a hospital, where he died.

The air show at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar was briefly suspended.

Prairie dogs damage historic cemetery

SANTA FE, N.M. — A happy colony of New Mexico prairie dogs hit pay dirt in a cemetery full of historic skeletons, causing grief for town officials who want to protect the final resting place of the state’s notables.

Prairie dogs are gnawing their way through skeletons in a historic cemetery in Santa Fe that houses the remains of three New Mexico governors, 10 mayors and other notables. They are leaving mounds of dirt mixed with human bones in a 4-acre lot in the heart of the city.

The city requires a humane relocation of prairie dogs, but the preservation association does not have enough money to move the large colony. It has tried different strategies to get rid of the prairie-dog invasion, including putting dry ice down the holes and plugging them with newspaper.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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