Museum director said to misspend

WASHINGTON - The former director of the National Museum of the American Indian spent more than $250,000 in Smithsonian funds on first-class transportation and luxury hotels over four years, according to records obtained by the Washington Post.

In four years, W. Richard West Jr. was away from Washington for 576 days on trips that included speaking engagements, fund-raising, and work for other nonprofit groups. West recently retired from the director's post but remains on the payroll until the end of the year.

West's travel often took him far from American Indian culture. There were more than a dozen trips to Paris, and trips to New Zealand, Greece, Indonesia and Singapore. West, 64, said that all his trips were approved by supervisors and that part of his job was to be a global emissary for the museum.

- AP

Pleas entered in Argentine case

MIAMI - The second of four suspects accused in a purported scheme to hide the source of $800,000 sent in a suitcase to finance the campaign of Argentina's president pleaded not guilty yesterday in U.S. federal court.

Uruguayan Rudolfo Wanseele Paciello, 40, is accused of failing to register as a foreign agent of Venezuela. He stood in leg shackles as his attorney, Orlando do Campo, entered the plea.

The group's alleged ringleader, Venezuelan Franklin Duran, 40, entered a not-guilty plea yesterday. Investigators believe that Duran helped orchestrate the Venezuelan government's efforts to cover up an August attempt to give cash to the campaign of Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez, who was elected Oct. 28.

- AP

Dairy corrects fatal problem

BOSTON - The pasteurization process at a central Massachusetts dairy connected to a deadly outbreak of a bacterial illness appears to be working properly, a state health official said yesterday.

Dr. Alfred DeMaria, the state director of communicable-disease control, said that could mean the listeria bacterium that sickened four people in Massachusetts, entered Whittier Farms' milk supply after it was pasteurized. Two male victims, ages 78 and 75, died in June and October. Another elderly man and a pregnant woman survived, though the woman miscarried.

The Shrewsbury dairy has suspended operations and is cooperating with state officials trying to pinpoint the source of contamination, DeMaria said. The farm delivered milk mostly to homes in the Worcester area.

- AP

Elsewhere:

New York City's

Sanitation Department said that after the New Year's Eve ball comes down in Times Square and all the revelers leave, it would have 109 workers, 16 mechanical sweepers, 13 collection trucks, 14 leaf blowers, and other street-cleaning equipment ready to move in.

The chance of

a football-field-size asteroid plowing into Mars next month has been increased to 4 percent, scientists said yesterday after analyzing archival data.