Security breach at Walter Reed

WASHINGTON - Sensitive information on about 1,000 patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other military hospitals was exposed in a security breach, sparking identity-theft concerns and an investigation by the Army.

Names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and other data were released, hospital officials said yesterday. The breached computer file did not include information such as medical records, or patients' diagnoses or prognoses, they said.

Officials declined to explain exactly how the information was compromised, pending an ongoing investigation.

The medical center learned of the breach May 21 from an outside data-mining company that officials did not identify. The center said it was working to notify all the individuals named in the file.

- AP

Ex-House aide pleads guilty

WASHINGTON - The onetime chief of staff to former Rep. Ernest Istook (R., Okla.) pleaded guilty yesterday to a conspiracy to defraud the House as part of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

John Albaugh, 41, admitted he had accepted meals and sports and concert tickets, along with other perks, from lobbyists in exchange for official favors. He faces 18 to 24 months in prison, but that sentence could be reduced based on his cooperation with the government's investigation.

In the eight years Albaugh was Istook's top aide, Istook accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Abramoff and his associates. Istook, now with the Heritage Foundation, has not been charged with wrongdoing. He later donated the campaign money to charity.

- AP

Cheney apologizes for W. Va. quip

WASHINGTON - Vice President Cheney threw an insult at West Virginians yesterday, but he later apologized.

Talking at the National Press Club about his family roots and how he was distantly related to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, the vice president noted that he had Cheneys on both sides of his family. "And we don't even live in West Virginia," he quipped. "You can say those things when you're not running for reelection."

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, asked Cheney to apologize.

Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said later yesterday: "On reflection, he concluded that it was an inappropriate attempt at humor that he should not have made."

- AP

Elsewhere:

An initiative that would

again outlaw same-sex marriage in California has qualified for the Nov. 4 ballot, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen said yesterday. If approved, the amendment would overturn the recent state Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.

The Crandall Canyon

mine collapse Aug. 6 in Utah, which killed six miners, occurred so quickly that it probably eliminated any chance for the men to escape, a new report said.

Last month's annual

food drive by the nation's mail carriers collected a record 73.1 million pounds of donated food, union officials said yesterday.