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Thursday, November 12, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Corrected version

Across The Nation

Across The Nation

FBI TELLS AIRLINES TO INSPECT ELECTRICAL SWITCHES ON MD-11S

WASHINGTON - Airlines were told today to inspect two lighting dimmer switches in the cockpits of MD-11 aircraft because they may overheat and smoke. The government said the problem does not appear to have caused the crash of Swissair Flight 111.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which issued the airworthiness directive, said airlines will have 30 days to determine if the switches are one of two models that have been found to be defective. If they are, the switches must be repaired or replaced within a month.

The agency said there is no evidence the overheated switch would cause damage beyond the part, and "there is also nothing to indicated that these switches are related to the Swissair crash."

A McDonnell Douglas MD-11, operating as Swissair Flight 111, plunged into the ocean off Nova Scotia on Sept. 2, killing all 229 people aboard. The crash came 16 minutes after the pilots reported smoke in the cockpit.

Today's order affects 65 U.S.-registered planes; worldwide there are 174 such aircraft.

Agent almost hit by shots near Rudolph command post

ANDREWS, N.C. - A federal agent was nearly hit by a bullet last night when shots were fired at the command post where federal agents are coordinating their search for bombing suspect Eric Rudolph.

A law enforcement official said five shell casings were found about 100 yards from the compound. One of the shots, fired at the command post building last night, "brushed the hair" of an agent but did not wound him, authorities said.

Rudolph, 32, is charged in the Jan. 29 bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic, which killed one person and injured another. Last month, he was charged in three Atlanta attacks: the 1996 Olympic Park bombing, which killed one person, and the 1997 bombings of an abortion clinic and a homosexual nightclub.

2 million fake ID cards seized in huge INS bust

LOS ANGELES - Authorities have seized 2 million fake government ID cards and other documents in what is believed to be one of the largest such busts in Immigration and Naturalization Service history.

"We were stunned, both with the quantity and the extremely high quality of these counterfeits," INS supervisory agent Aaron Wilson said yesterday.

The raid of a storage shed Tuesday turned up fake resident alien cards, immigration forms, driver's licenses, Social Security cards, credit cards, traveler's checks and printing equipment.

Since August, authorities have arrested 12 people on related counterfeiting charges. Earlier raids found an additional 157,000 documents, a printing press, cash and weapons.

Secret Service chief quits to work for football team

WASHINGTON - Lewis Merletti, the Secret Service director who fought unsuccessfully to keep his agents from testifying in the Monica Lewinsky investigation, is retiring to coordinate security for a professional football team, an official said today.

Merletti, who protected Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton, will become vice president of security for the expansion Cleveland Browns.

Merletti has served almost 25 years, becoming director of the Secret Service June 6, 1997.

In arguing unsuccessfully against agents' testimony in the Lewinsky inquiry, he said a president who did not trust his protectors' discretion would try to keep his distance from them.

Merletti will leave the Secret Service in January.

Appeal planned after FDA loses bid to regulate tobacco

RALEIGH, N.C. - The Clinton administration will take its case for regulating tobacco as a drug to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Department spokesman Myron Marlin announced the move yesterday, a day after a federal appeals court refused to reconsider an earlier ruling that the Food and Drug Administration had no authority to regulate tobacco.

In a 6-3 vote, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., let stand an earlier ruling by a three-judge panel of the court. That ruling struck down FDA regulations designed to make it more difficult for minors to buy cigarettes.

The tobacco industry had appealed a 1997 decision by U.S. District Judge William Osteen, who said the FDA could regulate nicotine as a drug.

Published Correction Date: 11/13/98 - The Federal Aviation Administration (Faa) Is Ordering Inspections Of Lighting-Dimmer Switches In The Cockpits Of MD-11 Aircraft. A Headline In This Digest Referred To The Wrong Federal Agency.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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