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Coast Guard gets record drug haul

WASHINGTON - The Coast Guard has reeled in a record 355,000 pounds of cocaine over the last year, results that officials say have forced smugglers to transport their drugs through costlier methods like semi-submersible vessels and liquefied drugs.

Coast Guard officials are set to announce today that they seized cocaine with a street value of roughly $4.7 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. The previous Coast Guard record for cocaine seizures, set two years ago, was 303,000 pounds. In fiscal 2006, the Coast Guard seized 287,000 pounds of cocaine.

Officials say smugglers are increasingly turning to more difficult means of moving the contraband from South America. Often that involves so-called go-fast boats, which travel far out into the Pacific Ocean hoping to avoid detection, before dropping the cargo in Mexico, and from there it is brought into the United States. Colombia supplies 90 percent of America's cocaine, officials estimate.

- AP

Lawyer guilty in judge-bribe case

JACKSON, Miss. - A lawyer has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe a judge and is assisting federal prosecutors in a case involving one of the nation's wealthiest trial lawyers. Timothy Balducci entered the plea late Tuesday after initially pleading not guilty, court documents show.

Balducci was accused of delivering $40,000 to a judge at the behest of prominent attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs for a favorable ruling in a civil case involving a dispute between Scruggs and other lawyers over $26.5 million in fees from a settlement of Hurricane Katrina homeowners' lawsuits.

Scruggs, a brother-in-law of Sen. Trent Lott (R., Miss.) earned millions from asbestos litigation and from his role in brokering a multibillion-dollar settlement with tobacco companies in the 1990s.

Museum returns Sitting Bull items

WASHINGTON - Mementos of Sioux Indian Chief Sitting Bull were returned to his family yesterday at a quiet ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

"I appreciate from my heart what the Smithsonian has done," said Ernie LaPointe, Sitting Bull's great-grandson. He said he would hold a ceremony at his home in Lead, S.D., on Dec. 15 with a medicine man to help determine what should be done with the artifacts.

A leader of the Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux, Sitting Bull became famous as the leader who defeated Lt. Col. George Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. Sitting Bull was killed while being arrested in 1890. A lock of hair and leggings were obtained, without permission, by an Army doctor, who later donated them to the museum.

- AP

Elsewhere: .

A tour bus

crashed into a tree at a Hollywood church yesterday. Seventeen people suffered mostly minor injuries. The chartered bus had 41 people on board who had been on their way to see the

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