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National debt hits $9 trillion

The national debt has hit $9 trillion for the first time.

The Treasury Department, which issues a daily accounting of the debt, said Wednesday that the debt subject to limit was at $9 trillion on Tuesday. It was $8.996 trillion on Monday.

Last month, Congress passed and President Bush signed into law an increase in the government’s borrowing ceiling to $9.815 trillion. It was the fifth debt limit increase since Bush took office in January 2001. Those increases have totaled $3.865 trillion.

The administration contends the rising debt reflects such factors as slow economic growth during the 2001 recession, the Sept. 11 attacks and the cost of fighting terrorism.

It took the country from George Washington until Ronald Reagan to reach the first $1 trillion in debt.


Inmate kills deputy on way to trial

An inmate handcuffed inside a medical transportation van Wednesday managed to steal a gun from the twice-retired, 76-year-old sheriff’s deputy at the wheel, kill him with it and drive off, authorities said.

Michael Mazza was recaptured four hours later at a pawn shop, the deputy’s gun still on him, Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti said. The 40-year-old suspect confessed to shooting Deputy Paul Rein, the sheriff said.

Mazza was on his way to the second day of trial on charges of bank robbery and eluding police. He had been complaining of a back problem, which is why he was in the medical van, sheriff’s spokesman Elliott Cohen said.


Illegal immigrants working at airport

Nearly two dozen illegal immigrants were arrested Wednesday, accused of using fake security badges to work in critical areas of O’Hare International Airport, including the tarmac, authorities said.

The 23 illegal workers were employed by Ideal Staffing Solutions Inc., whose corporate secretary and office manager also were arrested after an eight-month investigation that involved federal, state and Chicago authorities.


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