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U.S. probe of firehouse noose incident sought

JACKSONVILLE - An NAACP leader said he would ask the Justice Department to investigate an alleged culture of racism in the Jacksonville Fire-Rescue Department.

Isaiah Rumlin, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said he would ask for the investigation after two black firefighters reported finding hangman's nooses on their gear when they arrived at work at a downtown Jacksonville fire station Friday.

Roderick Lewis and Rufus Smith have been on administrative leave with pay since they reported finding the nooses clipped to their coats.

Nooses historically have been used by racists to intimidate blacks because of the connection to lynching.

Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton called the incident morally reprehensible and said he had requested an immediate investigation by the city's Human Rights Commission and the General Counsel's Office.

Another Jacksonville firefighter claimed he was taunted with a noose in September.

McCain: Let's review

wet-foot, dry-foot policy

MIAMI - U.S. Sen. John McCain on Tuesday joined the growing debate over the government's wet-foot, dry-foot policy for Cuban immigrants, saying it's time to re-examine it.

"I've been talking to many in the Cuban-American community and others, including Gov. (Jeb) Bush, who are more knowledgeable than I," the senator told reporters during a conference call. "I think it needs to be reviewed."

McCain, R-Ariz., spoke in advance of a town meeting he will hold Thursday at Miami-Dade College to promote his immigration reform bill.

The proposal, co-sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., would permit illegal immigrants to obtain work visas for up to six years, with the opportunity to apply for permanent residency. It does not include any reference to the wet-foot, dry-foot policy.

McCain said that policy has become increasingly contentious since 15 Cubans were sent back to the Communist island in January after the U.S. Coast Guard decided that a former bridge they landed on in the Florida Keys was not part of U.S. soil because it no longer connected to land.

Ejecting pilot rescued

after Marine jet crashes

KEY WEST - A Marine fighter jet pilot was rescued Tuesday after ejecting from the plane as it crashed into coastal waters off Key West.

The pilot, who was not immediately identified, ejected from a single-seat F/A-18 Hornet, said Capt. Sarah Kansteiner, a Marine Corps spokeswoman.

The pilot was picked up by a Navy helicopter and transported to Lower Keys Memorial Hospital. Kansteiner said the pilot was in good condition late Tuesday.

The pilot, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina, was conducting routine training.

Two arrested in theft

of police evidence

BELLE GLADE - Authorities arrested two men in the theft of guns and drugs from a police evidence storage unit.

John Kenneth Morris, 46, and Gary Bernard Rolle, 53, both of Belle Glade in Palm Beach County, are accused of burglaries on Feb. 11 and Feb. 12 at the city's historic firehouse used to store old case evidence, police Chief Albert Dowdell said.

Police did not retrieve the stolen drugs but recovered some handguns.