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Thursday, September 22, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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GOP panel to probe Katrina response

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., yesterday named 11 GOP lawmakers to the remnants of what Congress' Republican leaders originally had intended as a bipartisan investigation, conducted jointly by both halves of Congress, into flaws in the government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

With Democrats boycotting the probe and the leader of the Senate's Republicans acquiescing to their complaints by not appointing any members, the select committee is scheduled to begin work today as a creation solely of House Republicans.

The committee's chairman, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., said the panel plans Tuesday to question Michael Brown, who resigned as the discredited director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) last week, three days after the Bush administration stripped him of responsibility for overseeing relief work in the stricken Gulf area.

Davis said the committee would begin its work by hearing from the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center.

In naming the members, Hastert said, "The American public, especially the people of the Gulf region, deserve to know what happened in the early days of the storm."

The pared-down panel is forming two weeks after Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said they had agreed to undertake a bipartisan, bicameral select committee — the first such joint probe since the Iran-contra hearings of the 1980s.

House and Senate Democrats swiftly derided the idea, saying a GOP-led Congress could not be trusted to carry out a thorough investigation of mistakes by a Republican administration. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., yesterday renewed Democratic calls for an independent commission, similar to the one that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks.

ANIMAL RESCUE

Biologists rescue

four trained dolphins

JACKSON, Miss. — Marine biologists have rescued the last four of eight trained dolphins that were swept to sea by Hurricane Katrina.

Before the hurricane hit the Gulf coast Aug. 29, the dolphins were moved to a pool at the Marine Life Oceanarium that had withstood the destruction of Hurricane Camille in 1969. Katrina destroyed that pool and pulled the mammals into the Gulf of Mexico.

"Three of the dolphins were born at the facility and had never been in the wild, compacting our concern for their well-being," said Moby Solangi, owner and director for the Marine Life Aquarium.

Biologists located the dolphins Sept. 10 by performing aerial surveys. They were monitored and fed from boats and four were rescued within days, but the other four had left the area. They were plucked from the Mississippi Sound on Tuesday. All of the dolphins have been reunited.

PRICE GOUGING?

Federal agency to probe

gas price increases

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating whether gasoline prices were increased illegally in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and if oil companies have constrained refinery capacity to keep fuel prices high, an agency official told Congress yesterday.

"We are continuing our intense scrutiny of conduct in the petroleum industry in the aftermath of Katrina," John Seesel, FTC associate general counsel for energy, told the Senate Commerce Committee. "The FTC will proceed aggressively against any violations of the antitrust and consumer protection laws that it enforces."

U.S. oil companies have adamantly denied that they have acted to push up gasoline prices or reduce supply.

ALSO

Police probe: New Orleans Police Capt. Marlon Defillo yesterday said a committee will investigate the whereabouts of almost 200 of the city's 1,750 officers who disappeared after Hurricane Katrina hit and have yet to return. Officers who are returning to work for the first time face mandatory suspension pending a conference with the superintendent.

No British food: Ready-to-eat meals donated by Britain are stuck on shelves at an Arkansas air base because U.S. regulations have prohibited importation of British beef and poultry since a mad-cow disease scare.

Compiled from The Washington Post, The Associated Press, Knight Ridder Newspapers, Gannett News Service and Reuters.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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