Grant will help save 9/11 column

NEW YORK - A $200,000 grant will help preserve the last column pulled from the World Trade Center rubble after 9/11, officials said yesterday.

Now rusted and fragile, the 58-ton steel column that marked the end of the nine-month recovery effort will eventually go on display in the museum being constructed at ground zero.

Save America's Treasures, a not-for-profit preservation group, donated the money. The funds also will be used to preserve tributes placed on the 36-foot column by workers and family members before it was removed from the site in May 2002.

The column was stored in a climate-controlled hangar at John F. Kennedy International Airport until it was returned to ground zero in August. - AP

Baucus gave aide near-$14,000 raise

WASHINGTON - Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) gave the director of his Montana office a nearly $14,000 raise as they were becoming romantically involved last year, a spokesman for the senator said yesterday.

Baucus recommended the woman, Melodee Hanes, for Montana's U.S. attorney post in February, by which time she was his girlfriend. He has called Hanes, a former state prosecutor, "highly qualified."

Hanes, 53, withdrew from consideration in March. She was hired in June as a top official in the Justice Department.

Baucus spokesman Ty Matsdorf said Hanes' raise was the same amount received by Baucus' legislative director and less than the raise given to his chief of staff.

In another new detail, Matsdorf said Hanes met with the senator's divorce lawyer at least twice in summer 2007, eight months before Max and Wanda Baucus separated. They divorced in April.

Matsdorf said the meetings were in Hanes' official role as state director and focused on scheduling and logistics, including how a potential separation between Baucus and his wife could affect the senator's travel and work. - AP

Calif. immigration sweep nets 286

SAN JOSE, Calif. - In the largest such operation in U.S. history, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 286 foreign nationals in California with criminal records in a three-day enforcement surge that ended Thursday night.

The agency reported that about 80 percent of those taken into custody had prior convictions for serious or violent crimes such as rape, armed robbery, and assault with a deadly weapon. Also arrested were 30 convicted sex offenders, many of them convicted of sexual assaults on children.

More than 100 of those arrested have already been removed from the country, agency spokeswoman Virginia Kice said. - San Jose Mercury News

Elsewhere:

A woman, 98, was indicted yesterday on a second-degree murder charge alleging that she strangled her 100-year-old roommate in a Dartmouth, Mass., nursing home. Laura Lundquist was sent to a state mental hospital for a competency evaluation before she is arraigned in the Sept. 24 death of Elizabeth Barrow.