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Governors press Bush over National Guard

WASHINGTON - Governors of both parties said Sunday that Bush administration policies were stripping the National Guard of equipment and personnel needed to respond to hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, forest fires and other emergencies.

Tens of thousands of National Guard members have been sent to Iraq, along with much of the equipment needed to deal with natural disasters and terrorist threats in the United States, the governors said here at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association.

The governors said they would present their concerns to President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today. In a preview of their message, all 50 governors signed a letter to the president opposing any cuts in the size of the National Guard.

"Unfortunately," the letter said, "when our National Guard men and women return from being deployed in foreign theaters, much of their equipment remains behind."

The governors said the White House must immediately re-equip Guard units. Nearly one-third of the American ground forces in Iraq are members of the Army National Guard.

Warm, sunny day greets

two Mardi Gras parades

NEW ORLEANS - Children sat atop ladders yelling for beads and other trinkets Sunday as two of the Carnival season's biggest and glitziest parades rolled through this fun-starved city.

By nightfall, the warm, sunny weather had chilled a bit, but that didn't stop the crowds from partying.

A threat of thunderstorms Saturday prompted a one-day delay of the Krewe of Endymion's parade, which was set to follow the Krewe of Bacchus through the Uptown neighborhood on Sunday night. Three smaller parades were held in the afternoon.

The annual Carnival season winds up on Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, which is marked by parades and street parties through the city.

More than 1,000 protest

FBI in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - More than 1,000 demonstrators chanting anti-FBI slogans and carrying Puerto Rican flags marched through the capital of this U.S. island territory on Sunday.

Demonstrators chanted "Respect Puerto Rico!" and "FBI get out!"

Many of the marchers favor independence for the island and accuse the FBI of persecuting the movement.

They also accuse the FBI of letting Filiberto Ojeda Rios - the fugitive leader of a pro-independence group - bleed to death during an FBI raid in September.

Federal agents have said they shot Ojeda Rios after he fired on them, but his widow said the FBI fired first. Ojeda Rios was wanted for the 1983 robbery of a Wells Fargo armored truck depot.

FBI: Mystery powder

in dorm was not ricin

AUSTIN, Texas - The FBI determined a powdery substance found in a roll of quarters at a University of Texas dormitory was not ricin after initial state tests had indicated it was the deadly poison, a spokesman said Sunday.

The FBI tests did not identify the substance, but they came back negative for the poison that is extracted from castor beans, said San Antonio FBI spokesman Rene Salinas.

Roughly 400 residents of the Moore-Hill dormitory were evacuated Friday night while hazardous materials crews sanitized the area where the substance was found.

If it was put there as a joke, Salinas said, "it was an extremely bad joke."

Veterans Affairs targets

obesity and diabetes

WASHINGTON - Aging veterans are getting reinforcements in their fight against obesity and diabetes.

The Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services departments launch a campaign today to promote nutrition, exercise, education, preventive medicine and weight loss.

The VA says that of the 7.5-million veterans receiving its health benefits, more than 70 percent are obese and one out of five have diabetes. Diabetes can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, blindness and amputations.

As part of the new program, VA doctors will give out "prescriptions for health" to patients after measuring their body mass index, a measure of body fat. The prescriptions will list exercises and nutritional information that match patients' health needs.

Birmingham News prints

lost civil rights era photos

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Previously unpublished photographs from the civil rights era were discovered in an equipment closet at the Birmingham News and appeared for the first time Sunday in a special section of the newspaper.

The cardboard box with thousands of negatives, marked "Keep. Do Not Sell," was discovered in November 2004 by a photo intern, Alexander Cohn, who went through the files and interviewed people in the pictures to help produce the eight-page section, "Unseen. Unforgotten."

More than 30 photos appear in the print version, with dozens more available on the newspaper's Web site at www.al.com/unseen.

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