Nation in brief: Health inspector removed from duty

A city health inspector who gave a passing grade to a fast-food restaurant a day before television cameras captured images of rats scampering across its floor has been removed from field duty, health officials said Tuesday.

The health department also promised a thorough review to ensure that the city’s roughly 100 restaurant inspectors are going about their work correctly after last week’s incident at the Manhattan KFC/Taco Bell.

“They could always be better,” Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said.

Santa Ana, Calif.

Minuteman fight heading to court

A slow-burning leadership struggle within the Minuteman Project has flared into a full-blown court fight that threatens the 2-year-old anti-illegal immigration group’s influence, if not its survival.

Ousted Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist sued the group’s board of directors last week for control of the organization after he was fired and accused of embezzling $400,000 in donations.

Board members, who also fired the group’s executive director, also allege Gilchrist used $13,000 of the organization’s money for his own legal fees. And they recently filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service, saying Gilchrist illegally received a nonprofit postal discount.

On Tuesday, a judge set a March 21 hearing to decide whether to intervene in the dispute, which had been building for more than a year, according to court papers.

Gilchrist and other activists upset at what they perceived as a lack of action on the part of Congress began patrolling the Mexican border in Arizona in 2005 using cars, trucks, private planes and night-vision goggles.


Kerry grills funder of Swift Boat ads

A Senate hearing that began with glowing tributes to a St. Louis businessman and his qualifications to become ambassador to Belgium turned bitterly divisive Tuesday after he was accused of supporting a controversial conservative group.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., grilled nominee Sam Fox about why he donated $50,000 to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth during the 2004 presidential race. The group of Vietnam veterans made unsubstantiated allegations against Kerry – then the Democratic presidential nominee – and charged that Kerry did not deserve the medals he won in the Vietnam War.

Fox, one of the nation’s most generous contributors to Republican candidates and causes, said he shared Kerry’s concerns that politics “has become mean and destructive.”

Fox said he didn’t recall who asked him to give to the group and blamed partisans on both sides for contributing to so-called 527 groups that are not subject to conventional campaign finance rules.


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