1. Archive

House leaders unveil intel bill

House Republican leaders, unveiling their proposal to revamp the government's intelligence operations, placed much more emphasis Friday on beefing up border control and law-enforcement powers than has the Senate.

The House's 335-page bill would make it easier to deport immigrants who have run afoul of the law and to secretly monitor terrorist suspects who have no known affiliation with hostile groups or governments. It would increase penalties for making false statements in terrorist investigations and for failing to secure airplane cockpit doors, and it would make the FBI's mandatory retirement age 65 instead of 60.

The Senate proposal, scheduled for floor debate next week, makes little or no reference to these topics. Some lawmakers said Friday these and other differences will present major challenges for House-Senate negotiators trying to agree on a single bill this year.

The two bills differ in dozens of areas, including the way the Pentagon and a proposed national intelligence director would divide power over budgets, planning and personnel. The Senate measure would create a comptroller for intelligence spending and declassify the total spent annually on intelligence. The House bill would keep that sum a secret and leave the Defense Department's comptroller in charge of spending oversight.

Both bills might be changed before they reach final floor votes, especially in the Senate, where amendment rules are less restrictive. Leaders of both chambers said their bills reflect the recommendations of the 9/11 commission's July report.

Education secretary: No debate on school bill

WASHINGTON _ Education Secretary Rod Paige declared Friday that "the debate is over" about whether the law shaking up public education is working, even as he acknowledged schools' struggles to meet its sweeping demands.

"If we remain resolute and steadfast, year by year, more powerful and positive changes will follow," Paige said about the "No Child Left Behind" law, which greatly expanded the federal role in changing schools.

"But if we backtrack, if we falter, if we renege on our promise to our children, then we will lose the most important and profound opportunity of our lifetime to make education better," Paige said.

The law, approved with broad bipartisan support in 2001, is the centerpiece of President Bush's domestic agenda. It calls for highly qualified teachers in all core classes, expanded testing, more choices for parents and progress among racial and ethnic subgroups.

Oxygen, food running low on space station

CAPE CANAVERAL _ Oxygen and food will be worrisomely low on the international space station by Christmas, and it's crucial that a Russian supply ship get there by then, a top NASA official said Friday.

Complicating matters is the breakdown of the station's primary oxygen generator. The unit has barely worked this month despite intensive repair efforts by the two astronauts on board, and the men have had to tap into backup oxygen supplies.

The next Russian cargo ship is scheduled to launch on Dec. 23. That's right around the time that supplies _ notably oxygen and food _ will be getting tight, said space station program manager Bill Gerstenmaier.

High school band auctions itself off on eBay

AUSTIN, Texas _ The James Bowie High School Marching Band, all 250 members of it, are up for bid to raise money for a group trip to Arizona.

No one has placed the $4,999 starting bid for the band, which promises in its eBay listing to "make a cosmic impact at your next personal or corporate event" and "literally blow your guests away!"

Bidding ends today. The band will hit up parents to fill in the gaps if it falls short of the money needed to compete in the National Band Championship and Fiesta Bowl Parade in Arizona.