Black farmers file discrimination suit

WASHINGTON - More than 800 black farmers filed a new lawsuit against the Agriculture Department just two weeks after Congress reopened a 1999 settlement over past discrimination.

A provision in the recently enacted farm bill allows fresh claims from those who were denied damages after missing earlier deadlines. About 75,000 people could be in that group.

If their suits succeed, the case could cost the government several billion dollars atop the $980 million in damages paid under the original settlement. Black farmers alleged they were systematically denied loans and other aid from local USDA offices. The USDA and the Justice Department declined to comment on the new lawsuit.

- AP

FEMA tenant dies after standoff

NEW ORLEANS - Eric Minshew struggled with mental illness for many years and seemed to get much worse after Hurricane Katrina, according to his brother. Finally, when FEMA workers showed up to inspect his government-issue trailer, he snapped.

Police shot and killed Minshew yesterday after a nearly 10-hour standoff in one of the neighborhoods hit hardest by the 2005 hurricane.

Authorities said Minshew, 49, had threatened the inspectors with a gun, then fired at police. He was killed after pointing a gun at officers, police said. Minshew had been living alone in the trailer outside his parents' house, which had to be gutted because of damage from Katrina.

The inspection was a first step toward taking the trailer away. FEMA has pushed to get residents out of trailers, in part because of dangerous amounts of formaldehyde fumes in many of them.

- AP

Indicted U.S. rep's relatives charged

NEW ORLEANS - A brother, sister and niece of indicted U.S. Rep. William Jefferson (D., La.) were charged yesterday with pocketing more than $600,000 in state and federal grant money intended for charitable and educational projects.

A federal grand jury indicted New Orleans tax assessor Betty Jefferson, her brother Mose Jefferson, and her daughter Angela Coleman on charges including federal program fraud, identity theft and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said the family members used several nonprofit and for-profit companies to obtain grants designed to help pregnant teens, at-risk youths and others in need of aid. They allegedly used some of the money for personal expenses.

Four members of the politically prominent Jefferson family now face federal criminal charges. William Jefferson is awaiting trial on bribery charges; he has denied wrongdoing.

- AP

Elsewhere:

All the children

taken from a polygamist group's Texas ranch are now back with their parents. Child welfare officials said yesterday that all 440 had been picked up since a judge ordered their return.

The U.S. Military Academy

will now honor its daughters as well as its sons in two of its beloved, century-old songs. Sex-neutral lyrics were incorporated into West Point's "Alma Mater" and "The Corps" - replacing lines such as "The men of the Corps" with "The ranks of the Corps."