Defense official held as China spy

WASHINGTON - A Defense Department employee was indicted yesterday on charges he conspired to provide classified military information to an agent for China, the Justice Department said.

James Wilbur Fondren Jr., 62, passed secrets between November 2004 and February 2008, according to an indictment by a federal grand jury. He was charged in a criminal complaint in May.

Fondren worked at the Pentagon, was the deputy director of the Washington Liaison Office of the U.S. Pacific Command, and held a top-secret security clearance, the Justice Department said. He has been on administrative leave with pay since mid-February 2008, according to the statement. If convicted, Fondren could face up to 60 years in prison.

- Bloomberg News

Mountaintop mining targeted

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration yesterday announced steps to reduce the environmental destruction caused in six states by mountaintop coal mining.

The government will seek to eliminate the expedited reviews that have made it easier for mining companies to blast off Appalachian mountaintops and discard the rubble into valleys where streams flow.

The agreement among three federal agencies also includes changes to tighten federal oversight and environmental screening of mountaintop coal mining in Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

- AP

Recall on robes that may catch fire

WASHINGTON - Consumers are urged to immediately stop wearing a type of chenille robe made by Blair L.L.C. because of a fire hazard that is believed to have caused at least six deaths.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said yesterday that Blair, based in Warren, Pa., was issuing the second recall in two months. In five of the six cases, the victims were women who were cooking at the time; three of the victims were in their 80s.

The robes have item numbers 3093111, 3093112, 3093113, 3093114, 3093115, and 3093116. They are a one-piece garment with a shaped stand collar. The robes have a full-button front with seven matching button closures.

- AP

Elsewhere:

The Supreme Court turned down former media executive Conrad Black's request to be released from a Florida prison while he appeals his fraud conviction. Black has served nearly 15 months of a 61/2-year prison term after his conviction in July 2007.

NASA gave a "go" to tomorrow's launch of the space shuttle Endeavour for its flight to the International Space Station. The crew of seven will deliver the final piece of Japan's $1 billion space station lab.

A Colorado inmate who was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a guard was awarded $1.3 million by a judge who said he wanted to send a message that prison rapes would not be tolerated. The woman, 34, is held at the Denver Women's Correctional Facility.