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Nation Digest

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

NATIONAL SECURITY

Committee Asks for CIA Program Records

The House Intelligence Committee has asked the CIA to provide documents about a now-canceled program to kill al-Qaeda leaders, congressional officials said Tuesday.

The agency spent at least $1 million on the eight-year program before it was terminated last month, one congressional official said. Intelligence officials say the operation never progressed beyond a planning stage.

The CIA said Tuesday that the agency would cooperate with the House, whose request is a precursor to what would likely become a full-blown investigation into the secret operation and why the program was not disclosed to Congress. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

CIA Director Leon Panetta, meanwhile, ordered a thorough internal review, agency spokesman George Little said.

President George W. Bush authorized the killing of al-Qaeda leaders in 2001. Congress was aware of that notification.

-- Associated Press

RELIGION

Church Declares Gays Eligible to Be Ordained

Episcopalians declared gays and lesbians eligible for "any ordained ministry," a vote expected to upset world Anglican leaders who had sought a clear moratorium on consecrating another gay bishop.

Episcopal leaders insisted they were still committed to membership in the Anglican Communion. Some Anglican leaders, however, predicted the vote would break their fellowship. The Episcopal Church is the Anglican province in the United States.

The Episcopal General Convention, meeting in Anaheim, Calif., gave final approval to the measure during their once-every-three-years legislative assembly, which runs through Friday.

"God has called and may call" gays in committed relationships to "any ordained ministry" in the church, the resolution says.

Lay people voted 78 to 21 and clergy voted 77 to 19 to approve the resolution. The House of Bishops voted 99 to 45 on Monday to adopt the statement.

-- Associated Press

VETERANS AFFAIRS

Hospitals Lack Privacy for Women

Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics are not always making sure female veterans have privacy when they bathe and receive exams, government auditors said Tuesday.

No VA hospital or outpatient clinic under review is complying fully with federal privacy requirements, the Government Accountability Office reported. Female veterans also cite other issues, including a lack of child care at VA hospitals and difficulty in finding diaper-changing tables.

GAO investigators found that many facilities had gynecological tables that faced the door, including one door that opened to a waiting room. It also found instances in which women had to walk through a waiting area to use the restroom, instead of having access to one next to an exam room as required by VA policy.

Most of the women treated at VA facilities are between the ages of 20 and 29, much younger on average than male veterans, the GAO survey found. Post-traumatic stress disorder has been diagnosed in nearly 20 percent of the women, and many experienced sexual trauma while serving. Yet a smaller percentage of eligible women than men use VA care.

Patricia Hayes, chief consultant of the agency's veterans strategic health-care group, said VA recognizes that the care given to women isn't as good as what's offered to men but said it has made changes and will continue to do so.

She said that space constraints and building layouts pose challenges but that VA is putting together long-term plans for construction improvements.

-- Associated Press

FLORIDA

3 More Arrested In Couple's Deaths

Three more suspects have been arrested in the killings of a Florida Panhandle couple known for adopting children with special needs, bringing the total in custody to seven, authorities said.

Investigators had said previously that there were many motives for the homicides, but prosecutor Bill Eddins said Tuesday that robbery was the main one. Suspects stole a safe and other items during their break-in, authorities said. Eddins would not say what was in the safe or what else may have been taken from the house.

Nine of the couple's 17 children were home at the time, and three saw the intruders but were not hurt.

Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said investigators were still looking for at least one more person in the case.

Several of the suspects were day laborers who knew one another through either a pressure-washing business or a car-detailing group, Morgan said.

-- Associated Press

New Arguments Ordered in Moussaoui Appeal: A federal appeals court has ordered new arguments in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, who was convicted of conspiracy to carry out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond heard Moussaoui's appeal in January. But one of those judges, Karen Williams, retired last week after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Court clerk Patricia Connor said Tuesday that Williams's retirement makes new arguments necessary. Moussaoui is serving a life term.

U.S., Cuba Resume Talks After 6 Years: U.S. and Cuban officials met for the first time in six years to discuss how best to promote safe, legal and orderly migration between the two countries.

From News Services

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