NATION IN BRIEF

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Charge Against DeLay Could Be Reinstated

AUSTIN -- Texas's highest criminal appeals court said Wednesday that it will consider reinstating a conspiracy charge against former House majority leader Tom DeLay, further postponing his felony money-laundering trial.

A Travis County grand jury indicted DeLay and two political consultants last year on charges stemming from Republican fundraising during the 2002 legislative races.

A state district judge later threw out one of two conspiracy charges. Prosecutors asked the appeals court to reinstate the charge, and the court said Wednesday that it will consider that request.

Judge Pat Priest said he will proceed with DeLay's trial when the appeals process has ended.

DeLay stepped down as majority leader after the charges were filed and announced his resignation from Congress a few months later. He and other Texas Republicans have accused prosecutor Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, of carrying out a political vendetta.

U.S. Wildfires Burn Most Land Since 1960

BOISE, Idaho -- Wildfires across the country have scorched more land in 2006 than in any year since at least 1960, burning an area twice the size of New Jersey.

But the flames have raced mainly across sparsely populated desert, causing fewer firefighter deaths -- 15 -- than in previous years.

As of Wednesday, blazes had torched about 8.7 million acres, or 13,584 square miles, just above last year's total of 13,573 square miles, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. Reliable records were not kept before 1960, officials said. The annual average over the past 10 years is 4.9 million acres.

Federal officials attributed the increase to two consecutive seasons of hot and dry weather that left forests and ranges parched and easily ignitable by lightning.

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