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NATIONAL BRIEFS


WASHINGTON: New rules after close call

Aircraft carrying the first lady or the vice president will receive a higher level of scrutiny from air traffic controllers after an aborted landing this week of a plane carrying Michelle Obama, the Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday. Flights carrying Obama or Vice President Joe Biden will be handled by an air traffic supervisor rather than a controller, the agency said. The new rules apply to approaches and departures handled by a regional air traffic facility in Warrenton, Va., and takeoffs and landings at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.


Charges in Cole bombing

The Obama administration initiated its first Guantánamo Bay military tribunal Wednesday, charging a Saudi with masterminding the bombing of the U.S. destroyer Cole that killed 17 sailors and wounded 40 in October 2000. Conviction is uncertain, however, because U.S. interrogators repeatedly subjected Abd al Rahim al Nashiri to techniques widely considered to be torture. Information obtained through such methods cannot be used as evidence against him. Nashiri allegedly was supervising several al-Qaida plots when he was captured in 2002 in the United Arab Emirates, and had ascended in Osama bin Laden's terrorist network. Complicating the case is that two participants in the Cole bombing were convicted in Yemen, are imprisoned there and are not available to testify at Nashiri's trial. Nashiri's attorney, said other suspects in pre-Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were sent to U.S. federal courts, including two indicted in New York for the Cole bombing. "But here," Reyes said, "the only difference is that Nashiri was tortured. And the government wants to make the evidence of this disappear by sentencing him to death in a makeshift system."


FLORIDA: Obamas to see shuttle liftoff

President Barack Obama and his family will attend the April 29 launch of Endeavour, NASA's next-to-last space shuttle commanded by the husband of critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The news prompted Giffords to say: "Awesome." Commander Mark Kelly has said his wife is awaiting her doctors' final approval for her to attend.

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