Calif. Archbishop to Answer

Questions on Abuse Cases

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Archbishop William J. Levada agreed Wednesday to waive diplomatic immunity and answer questions about sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests after he takes over as the church's guardian on doctrine -- the Vatican post formerly held by Pope Benedict XVI.

Levada, 69, who will officially step down as archbishop of San Francisco next week, is heading to Rome to take over as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger held the post for 24 years before he became pope in April; he appointed Levada to his previous job a month later.

During a farewell Mass last Sunday in San Francisco, Levada was served with a subpoena to be deposed on Friday. But with his agreement to waive diplomatic immunity, Levada will now be deposed in January; he had previously refused the waiver.

Abuse victims' attorneys want to question Levada regarding the bankruptcy case of the Archdiocese of Portland, which he led from 1986 until 1995, when he came to San Francisco. Last year, Portland became the first Catholic diocese in the nation to declare bankruptcy, citing sex abuse lawsuits seeking $155 million in damages.

FEMA Paid Claims Unrelated

To Fla. Storms, Paper Says

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The federal emergency agency paid for hundreds of funerals last year of Floridians whose deaths had nothing to do with the four hurricanes that hit the state, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved 319 hurricane funeral claims in Florida at a cost of $1.3 million.

Several families told the newspaper that they gave FEMA letters from doctors saying stress caused by the hurricanes possibly contributed to the deaths -- even though medical examiners had blamed natural causes for the deaths.

* HOUSTON -- Discovery's astronauts arrived to a rousing celebration as nearly 700 people crowded into a hangar, waving flags and holding signs that said: "Welcome Home, Astronauts!" The seven-person crew returned to Earth on Tuesday after being the first to take a space shuttle into orbit since the 2003 Columbia disaster.

* ROMULUS, Mich. -- Hundreds of people were advised to stay away from their homes as a fire at a chemical plant sent acrid smoke over their neighborhoods. At least 32 people, including firefighters, were treated for breathing difficulties.

* OCEAN TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- An 8-year-old girl died and three others were injured when an oak tree crashed down on them during a first-aid class at a Boy Scout camp.

* ATLANTA -- U.S. District Judge Beverly B. Martin has upheld a ruling ordering Georgia to turn over records related to its investigation of the Ku Klux Klan's possible ties to the Atlanta child killings. The state has been asked to turn over the file so the court can determine what documents, if any, to give Wayne Williams, the man convicted of two of the murders.

-- From News Services