U.S. tightens domestic, border security

WASHINGTON

Federal agencies increased inspections at borders and of the food supply, put nuclear plants on heightened alert and stepped up the search for possible Iraqi terrorist “sleeper cells” in a move to war footing yesterday.

As the U.S. assault on Iraq intensified, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge told members of Congress that there had been no incidents in the United States in retaliation.

He said the “code orange” alert status imposed this week would stay in effect.

FBI agents, in an attempt to head off possible retaliation for the war, began fanning out across the country to interview thousands of people born in Iraq, the agency said. The FBI also said it also wanted to try to prevent hate crimes against people of Iraqi heritage.

The FBI’s 56 bureaus were put on around-the-clock operation.

“We are running down every lead, responding to every threat,” Director Robert Mueller said.

Federal meat and poultry inspectors, in their routine inspections, began testing for chemical or biological agents that terrorists might use, said Jesse Majkowksi, head of the Agriculture Department’s food security office.


Racial gaps in education cause income tiers

WASHINGTON

Educational gaps between men and women and whites and blacks have narrowed in recent years, but this much has not changed: A highly educated white man still makes much more money than anyone else.

On average, a white man with a college diploma earned about $65,000 in 2001. Similarly educated white women made about 40 percent less, while black and Hispanic men earned 30 percent less, according to Census Bureau estimates being released today.

Almost half of Asian residents 25 and older have graduated from college, nearly twice the rate of whites. Still, Asians earned about 8 percent less than whites.

“There’s a wedge between minority education gains and the payoff, and that’s discrimination and the kinds of job opportunities available,” said Jared Bernstein, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute.

There were similar disparities between white men and women on other educational levels. Income gaps have narrowed slightly since 1991 at the high school level and grown a bit at the college level.


Palestinian prime minister takes office

JERUSALEM

Mahmoud Abbas, a pragmatic leader and critic of the armed uprising, accepted the post of Palestinian prime minister, raising hopes of a way out of the bloody Israeli-Palestinian deadlock after 30 months.

Yet the 67-year-old Abbas could easily fail – he’s up against a Yasser Arafat’s reluctance to share power, has little grassroots support and will depend to some extent on the goodwill of hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Abbas accepted the job Wednesday several hours after being tapped by the Palestinian leader, who agreed to creating the position last month amid intense international pressure.

Abbas and Arafat have known each other for four decades. In the 1960s, they co-founded Fatah, the Palestinian faction that has led the struggle for statehood.


Fearing attacks, Koreas rouse troops

South Korea

South Korea put its military on heightened alert for any North Korean attempt to raise tension on the Korean Peninsula. Also, at the U.S. Embassy to South Korea, about 4,000 protested the war with Iraq.

“We expect North Korea to be cautious, but we have strengthened our alert status and our early warning status in response to possible North Korean attempts to increase tensions,” presidential spokeswoman Song Kyoung-hee said.

The North said it also was boosting its military readiness, saying it feared a U.S. attack.

“We will strengthen our readiness in every possible way to meet whatever military options the U.S. imperialists will take against us,” said an article from Rodong Sinmun, the North’s most prominent state newspaper.


College pres., family arrested for marijuana

ANKENY, Iowa

He was a well-respected college president earning more than $180,000 a year. His wife arranged studio classes at the local museum.

That picture of a serene upper middle-class life was shattered last week by the couple’s arrests on marijuana charges – along with those of their teenage son and 22-year-old daughter.

The allegations against Des Moines Area Community College President David England and his family have embarrassed students, angered parents and alumni and sent shock waves through this well-heeled suburb of Des Moines.

“Everybody is talking about it. Just what was he thinking?” asked Kim Hartje, a real estate agent. “It was poor judgment.”

England will be arraigned April 24.

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