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Spokesman makes the most of his words

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher has a way with words. He has to, what with having to spell out U.S. foreign policy to the world.

Sometimes, though, Boucher can get, shall we say, a little smart.

At Monday's daily press briefing, a reporter asked about a letter to the State Department from Carlos Castano, leader of a right-wing death squad in Colombia known as the AUC, saying he and a drug dealer want to negotiate terms with the U.S. government.

"I hadn't heard about this. I'll have to look into it for you," Boucher said.

"You accept mail from leaders of entities that are listed as foreign terrorist organizations?" the reporter asked.

"Well, maybe it's being irradiated somewhere," the spokesman parried.

Florida senators seek more federal judges

Sens. Bob Graham and Bill Nelson introduced a bill last week to give Florida three new federal judges.

The bill would add two judges in the Middle District, which is based in Tampa, and one in the Southern District, which includes Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

The Democratic senators said the federal courts in Florida continue to be overloaded because of population growth. Federal judges are supposed to handle 430 cases each, but judges in the Middle District have been handling 547 each and Southern District judges have been handling 609.

Said Graham: "The administration of justice will continue to be a challenge in Florida's federal courts unless adequate resources are committed."

Group forms to battle embargo against Cuba

Characterizing it as a failed relic of the Cold War, the Cuba Working Group wants the decadesold U.S. embargo against the island lifted.

To get the job done, the newly formed group of bipartisan House members isn't afraid to ruffle feathers in South Florida.

During a news conference Thursday to unveil the group, members repeatedly railed against the influence of Cuban-Americans on Cuba policy.

Washington cannot fashion foreign policy, said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., "just based on the electoral will of Florida."

Perhaps cognizant that South Florida doesn't take kindly to verbal assaults from Washington, Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., said group members planned a trip to the state to meet with representatives of the Cuban-American community.

Quipped fellow group member Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., "We hope to come back."

_ Staff writers Paul de la Garza and Bill Adair contributed to this report.