Michelle Obama touts health care

WASHINGTON - Michelle Obama yesterday described health-care reform as "very much a women's issue" and said the current system was preventing women from achieving "true equality."

Appearing with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the first lady urged a group of about 100 women from the health-care industry and rights organizations to press for immediate reform.

In two years of campaigning, she said, she heard countless stories from women across the country about how costs and insurance battles were pushing families to the brink.

And in some states, insurers can get away with gender discrimination, Obama asserted, denying coverage to women who have had cesarean sections, or have been the victim of domestic violence, or "just having had a baby."

- Washington Post

Killer escapes during field trip

SPOKANE, Wash. - Authorities searched by air and land yesterday for a criminally insane killer who escaped during a mental hospital's field trip to a county fair. The field trip has infuriated residents and officials of Washington state.

The public was urged to call 911 if Phillip Arnold Paul, 57, was seen. He is white, 5-foot-8, and 220 pounds, with brownish-gray hair and a goatee.

"He is in a bad mental state," his brother, Tom Paul, said. "Why would they load him on a bus and take him to a fair?" That's a question many were asking.

Thirty-one patients from Eastern State Hospital, all in street clothes, were on the trip, with 11 staff members. Paul was committed after he was acquitted by reason of insanity in the 1987 slaying of an elderly woman in Sunnyside. - AP

Bush-era official target of probe

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department is investigating whether former Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton illegally used her position to steer lucrative oil leases to Royal Dutch Shell P.L.C., the company she works for now, officials with both departments confirmed.

The probe is focused on a 2006 decision by the Interior Department to award three oil-shale leases on federal land in Colorado to a Shell subsidiary.

Investigators are looking into whether Norton, named to run the agency in 2001, violated a law barring federal employees from discussing a job with a company if they are involved in decisions that may benefit that company.

Months after granting the leases to Shell, Norton left the agency. Shell later that year hired her as an in-house counsel. She could not be reached for comment. A Shell spokeswoman said the company was "not in a position to comment." - AP