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Bombs main threat to planes, TSA says

Tue., Dec. 13, 2005

Washington The nation’s aviation security chief said Monday that airplanes are no longer vulnerable to being hijacked but could be blown up with bombs smuggled into the passenger cabin.

Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley testified at a Capitol Hill hearing that security improvements since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have made hijacking virtually impossible.

Hawley cited post-9/11 security improvements as he defended his decision to allow passengers to carry small scissors and tools starting Dec. 22. “It’s not about scissors, it’s about bombs,” Hawley said. “Small objects aren’t going to enable a major terrorist attack.”

Requiring security screeners to search for small scissors “does not help security, it hurts it” by drawing attention away from the more serious threat of bombs, Hawley said.

New policy allows scissors with blades up to 4 inches and tools such as screwdrivers and pliers measuring up to 7 inches. Hammers, saws and other sharp tools will remain banned.

Testing company fails to grade correctly

Columbus, Ohio A testing company faces a fine after it mistakenly failed hundreds of students on Ohio’s new graduation test, state education officials said Monday.

Measurement Inc. graded 1,599 tests and failed 890 students after accidentally converting raw test data to passing and failing grades, the state Education Department said.

Whether the test was the only thing keeping any students from graduating – and whether anyone might have wrongly been sent back to school this fall – wasn’t immediately clear.

The scores have since been corrected; the state and the company planned to notify 272 school districts this week whose students were affected. The corrected test scores still were not enough to pass for 543 students.

The Durham, N.C.-based company said it’s the first time it made an error big enough to warrant a fine.

Islamic study programs get gift from prince

Boston A Saudi prince believed to be the wealthiest businessman in the Muslim world has donated $40 million for Harvard and Georgetown to expand their Islamic studies programs, the schools announced Monday.

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud, who gave $20 million to each university, is a nephew of the late King Fahd and worth upward of $20 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

Harvard and Georgetown officials said they will use the gifts to add faculty and scholarships and expand their Islamic studies curricula.

“Bridging the understanding between East and West is important for peace and tolerance,” Prince Alwaleed said in a statement issued by both schools.

Doctor wants to grow own pot for study

Washington A University of Massachusetts professor says the medical marijuana grown by the federal government isn’t very good. He wants a permit to cultivate his own pot, saying it will be better for research.

Lyle Craker, a horticulturist who heads the school’s medicinal plant program, is challenging the government’s 36-year-old monopoly on research marijuana. Craker’s suit claims government-grown marijuana lacks the potency medical researchers need to make important breakthroughs.

A hearing before a federal administrative judge at the Drug Enforcement Administration got under way Monday and is expected to last all week.

Craker’s suit also alleges there isn’t enough of the drug freely available for scientists across the country to work with.

The DEA contends that permitting other marijuana growers would lead to greater illegal use of the drug. They have also said that international treaties limit the United States to one marijuana production facility.


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