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WASHINGTON IN BRIEF

Thursday, March 23, 2006

U.S. Charges 50 Colombians

The United States charged 50 leaders of Colombia's largest guerrilla group with sending more than $25 billion worth of cocaine around the world to finance their fight at home, a federal indictment that depicts the rebels as major narco-terrorists.

The indictment made public yesterday in U.S. District Court said the leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, ordered the killings of Colombian farmers who did not cooperate with the group, the kidnapping and killing of U.S. citizens and the downing of U.S. planes seeking to fumigate coca crops.

U.S. officials said the indictment strikes a blow against the group because it lays out FARC's hierarchy and details of its operations. "Members of the FARC do not want to face American justice," Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said.

He acknowledged that 47 of those charged remain at large, probably in well-defended jungle strongholds that have so far proved beyond the reach of Colombian authorities.

The FARC supplies more than half the world's cocaine and 60 percent of the drug that enters the United States, the indictment said. "The FARC's fingerprint is on most of the cocaine sold in America's neighborhoods," said Karen P. Tandy, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

GOP Joins Fight on Warming

Some prominent Republicans have joined the crusade against global warming, teaming up with the advocacy group Environmental Defense and the Ad Council to launch a series of public service announcements today about the threat climate change poses to Americans' future.

GOP pollster Whit Ayres conducted a major poll for the initiative, in which he found 70 percent of respondents believe global warming is happening and more than half think it stems from human activity. Tucker Eskew, former deputy communications director at the Bush White House, is also advising the campaign, which includes a series of edgy television and radio commercials along with a consumer conservation guide on the Web called "The Low Carbon Diet."

Environmental Defense President Fred Krupp said the ad campaign "is a wake-up call about the urgency of the problem, and a public service."

Kerry Battles Defamation Suit

Sen. John F. Kerry is still fighting at least one leftover battle from his failed 2004 presidential bid.

The Massachusetts Democrat recently created a defense fund to pay his legal costs in a federal defamation lawsuit filed last fall by a Pennsylvania filmmaker, Carlton Sherwood.

Sherwood alleged that Kerry and a top aide sought to "discredit and silence" him while blocking the broadcast of his anti-Kerry documentary during the final weeks of the race.

The film, "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," alleges Kerry's actions as an antiwar activist after he returned home from the Vietnam War harmed American POWs. The film alleges that Kerry lied about atrocities by U.S. soldiers as a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Kerry has vigorously denied the charges.

-- Staff writer Juliet Eilperin and news services

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