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Red Cross will return donations to those who request it

The American Red Cross, under fire for its use of money raised since the terrorist attacks, said it will return donations to any contributor who requests a refund.

The emergency relief group, which has collected about $500-million since Sept. 11, touched off a controversy last month by announcing that not all of the funds would go to victims of the attacks.

More than $200-million will be held in reserve in case it is needed for other terrorist attacks, the group said Monday.

"This has not been a big issue for us," said Devorah Goldburg, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross. "If people have a question about how donations are used, we talk with them and go through the whole process. If they still have a problem, then we honor a request for the donation to be returned."

The organization also reiterated that it honors the wishes of contributors who request their money be used for a specific cause.

"If a check has a specific request on it, then we honor that as well," Goldburg said.

Funds for victims may

violate tax law

NEW YORK _ On Friday, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced that the city's Twin Towers Fund had written its first 73 checks to the families of the rescuers who died at the World Trade Center. The checks ranged from $50,000 to $325,000, and are part of $85-million in charity that the mayor has promised to about 400 families.

But there is one problem: The payments may violate the federal tax laws governing charities.

With more than $1.3-billion donated to the victims of Sept. 11, the notion that this vast pool of charity could be more or less divided among all the affected families has gained currency with the public and some elected officials, who have promoted it as a solution to the logistical delays and red tape plaguing relief efforts.

Yet despite its appealing simplicity, this approach is clearly forbidden by Internal Revenue Service rules that govern tax-exempt charities, a senior IRS official said in congressional testimony last week.

The IRS typically requires tax-exempt charities like the Twin Towers Fund to serve people who are in dire financial need. Yet many of the families of the lost police officers and firefighters have already received tens of thousands of dollars in charity and all have considerable pension and death benefits. In certain cases, their family income is actually higher than it was before Sept. 11.

The Giuliani administration, which acknowledges that it announced the distribution plan without first getting formal approval from the fund's board of directors, said the payments were appropriate, arguing that the IRS often gives charities greater leeway to distribute relief in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

Passenger causes diversion of D.C.-bound jet

WASHINGTON _ A US Airways plane from Pittsburgh to Reagan Washington National Airport was diverted to Washington Dulles International Airport because of an unruly passenger, the Federal Aviation Administration said Monday.

US Airways spokesman Richard Weintraub said air marshals on board Flight 969 ordered the plane to Dulles rather than National. Dulles is 40 miles farther outside the capital than Reagan National. The plane landed without incident at 5:08 p.m. EST, the FAA said.

The passenger, Raho Ortiz, 33, of Washington, was arrested. Law enforcement authorities said the man ignored warnings to stay in his seat. Passengers cannot leave their seats during the last 30 minutes of any flight into Reagan National under new security rules.

Federal prosecutors decided not to press charges. But Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police, said Ortiz was issued a summons to appear in Loudoun County Court to answer a misdemeanor possession of marijuana charge.

Another passenger, Robert Gorence, said he saw a man "making his way toward the cockpit" when "an air marshal jumped up with his gun and subdued him."

Sears Tower using

new screening devices

CHICAGO _ Employees and visitors at the Sears Tower will be screened with metal detectors and have their bags X-rayed as part of increased security at the nation's tallest building.

The X-ray baggage scanners debuted Monday in the tower's two main lobbies, where metal detectors will be operating in a week.

In a memo, officials from TrizecHahn Corp., the building's management company, said anyone failing to comply with the measures will not be allowed inside.

Suspects, arrests . . .

CANADA: The head of a money-transfer service that the United States accuses of diverting money to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network surrendered Monday. Liban Hussein, 31, was taken into custody under an extradition warrant, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Cpl. Louise Lafrance said. He was scheduled to appear for a bail hearing in Ottawa today. Hussein and his brother operate Barakaat North America Inc. out of offices in Ottawa and Massachusetts.

FRANCE: Six suspected terrorists have been arrested by the French police. The authorities said they believed that the suspects _ who French media reports linked to a lieutenant of Osama bin Laden _ were part of a dormant cell that once had plans to blow up a Christmas market and the cathedral in Strasbourg.

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