9/11 commission to question Ashcroft


The nation’s top law enforcement officials say they
recognized the threat posed by al-Qaida in the months leading up to
the Sept. 11 attacks, but members of the commission looking into
the attacks say they want proof that concern equaled action.

The panel begins a new two-day hearing today with testimony from
former FBI Director Louis Freeh, Attorney General John Ashcroft and
former Attorney General Janet Reno. Thomas Pickard, who served as
acting FBI director in the months just before the attacks, and
former CIA counterterrorism center director Cofer Black also are
scheduled to testify.

Aides to Ashcroft said he plans to rebut criticism that he was
more focused on issues such as illegal drugs and gun crimes than
terrorism before the attacks. They point to a May 9, 2001, Senate
hearing in which Ashcroft testified his agency had “no higher
priority” than protecting against terrorist attacks.

In an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Freeh
said the FBI “relentlessly did its job pursuing
terrorists” before the attacks but was hampered by lack of
resources and political will.


Sharon seeks to keep parts of West Bank


Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday named five large West Bank
settlement blocs he wants to keep as part of his final peace plan
— and then sought U.S. support for the
“disengagement” effort.

Sharon appeared to confirm Palestinian fears that Israel plans
to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and four smaller West Bank
settlements in order to strengthen its hold over other parts of the
West Bank.

Sharon spoke just hours before leaving for Washington where he
will ask President Bush to back the plan.

Bush said yesterday that he would welcome a Gaza withdrawal as a
“positive development,” but it appears unlikely the
U.S. president will meet Israel’s request — a U.S.
declaration that Israel can keep part of the West Bank in a final
peace deal with the Palestinians.

Such a declaration would undermine the U.S.-backed “road
map” peace plan, which envisions a Palestinian state by next
year, with the borders to be negotiated by both sides.


Chemical company to cut 3,500 workers


DuPont Co. will eliminate 3,500 jobs, or about 6 percent of its
global work force, by the end of this year as part of cost-cutting
plans it announced late last year.

The Wilmington-based chemical giant said Monday it will cut
about 3,000 positions, roughly two-thirds of them in the United
States and Canada, and expects to trim 500 jobs through attrition.
DuPont also will eliminate 450 contractor positions, most of them
in the United States.

The company announced in December that it would trim $900
million in costs over the next two years by cutting jobs,
streamlining product lines and making other changes. Chairman and
Chief Executive Officer Charles Holliday Jr. sent employees an
e-mail yesterday announcing the job cuts.


Charities speak out against tax revisions

Charities fear that potential donors may conclude it’s not
worth the hassle to donate used cars if Congress follows through
with plans to clamp down on inflated tax deductions.

Lawmakers started looking into the subject a year ago when
government auditors discovered a wide gap between proceeds reaped
by charities and the value of donated cars claimed on tax

Charities sometimes make pennies on the dollar of a car’s
estimated value.

The gap occurs because charities typically sell donated cars at
dealer auctions for wholesale prices. Donors calculate their tax
deductions by estimating the car’s retail value, sometimes
ignoring its condition and mileage. Congress and the Treasury
Department want to narrow the gap.


Tribesmen ready to negotiate with troops

BANNU, Pakistan

A Pakistani army cordon tightening around their mud-brick
compounds, leaders of a tribe along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border
say they are desperate to avoid bloodshed as a deadline to turn
over al-Qaida suspects rapidly draws near.

Four elders of the Jani Khel tribe said they are ready to
negotiate with the military, although the leaders insist they
aren’t harboring foreign terrorists and their mountainous land is
too forbidding for Osama bin Laden and his men.

The elders descended the rugged peaks of Shawal, in North
Waziristan, to meet with The Associated Press this weekend and give
their side of the conflict.


— Compiled from Daily wire reports

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