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Nation in brief: Pentagon halts sales of F-14 parts

The Pentagon said Tuesday it had halted sales of spare parts from its recently retired F-14 fighter jet fleet, even as lawmakers pledged tougher oversight of the military’s surplus sales to stop buyers for Iran and other countries from acquiring gear.

Sales of F-14 parts were suspended last Friday pending a comprehensive review, Defense Logistics Agency spokesman Jack Hooper said.

The Pentagon’s move followed a report by the Associated Press this month that found buyers for Iran, China and other countries had exploited gaps in sales security to get their hands on sensitive military equipment. The purchases included parts for the F-14 and other aircraft and missile components. Law enforcement officials say that in at least one case the contraband made it to Iran.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has introduced legislation to permanently end all Pentagon sales of surplus F-14 parts, saying the military’s marketing of the spares “defies common sense” in light of their importance to Iran.


Court reinstates Padilla charge

A federal appeals court on Tuesday reinstated a key terrorism charge, the only one carrying a potential life sentence, against suspected al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with federal prosecutors in Miami that the charge that the U.S. citizen and his two co-defendants conspired to “murder, kidnap and maim” people overseas did not duplicate other counts in the indictment.

The Atlanta-based court reversed a decision last summer by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke, who said the three charges in the indictment contained nearly identical elements and could subject the defendants to extra punishment for the same act, violating protections against double jeopardy.

Padilla was arrested in May 2002 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, with the government claiming he was plotting to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” in a major U.S. city.


Bill widens access to sex offender list

Social networking Web sites like MySpace and Facebook would have access to a database of sex offenders for checking names and addresses against public profiles under a bill introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers Tuesday in Congress.

The legislation, aimed at giving computer network operators the knowledge and ability to remove sexual predators from their sites, would require convicted sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses and other online identifiers with federal authorities. The information would not be released to the public.

Adults who misrepresent their age to a minor with the intent of sexually abusing a child could be prosecuted and sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.


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Toxic cloud caused by Hawaii volcano lava emerges over ocean

new  White plumes of acid and extremely fine shards of glass billowed into the sky over Hawaii as molten rock from Kilauea volcano poured into the ocean, creating yet another hazard from an eruption that began more than two weeks ago: A toxic steam cloud.