GAO: Arlington is run much better

McLEAN, Va. - Management of Arlington National Cemetery has improved significantly in the last year since the cemetery's top two officials were forced out amid reports of misidentified graves, and it may no longer make sense to strip the Army of its management of the cemetery, the Government Accountability Office said Thursday.

The GAO, Congress' watchdog arm, issued two reports detailing changes put in place by the new leadership team of Executive Director Kathryn Condon and Superintendent Patrick Hallinan. The two took over after allegations of widespread mismanagement.

The GAO concluded that transferring management to the Department of Veterans Affairs could be feasible but said that might be premature given the improvements the Army had made at the cemetery. The report recommended a formal analysis of the cemetery's staffing needs, and found fault with some of the fact-checking methodology the cemetery has used to ensure worried families that their loved ones have been properly buried. - AP

FBI to broaden definition of rape

The definition of rape in U.S. crime statistics compiled by the FBI will be broadened after the recommendation of a panel of outside advisers, Director Robert Mueller said Wednesday.

The panel recommended that the definition include the rape of men and crimes that involve oral or anal penetration or penetration with objects. The Women's Law Project of Philadelphia for years has been pushing the FBI to make the change.

The law project also was instrumental in changes in the Philadelphia police rape squad after a 1999 Inquirer series on how police had ignored thousands of sexual-assault complaints during the 1990s. As a result of those changes, Philadelphia police have been counting an average of 200 more rapes a year.

Under the FBI's planned new definition, police nationwide are expected to increase the number of rapes being reported. - Staff and wire report

House OKs bill on welfare funds

WASHINGTON - The nation's main welfare program would be funded for the next nine months under a bill passed Thursday by the House, which also banned recipients from accessing their benefits in strip clubs, liquor stores, and casinos.

A voice vote approved the measure. The welfare provision is included in legislation to extend a payroll tax cut, but the separate bill was passed in case it's eliminated from the tax measure. Without the legislation, the welfare program would halt at midnight Dec. 31.

Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate.

The chief House sponsor, Rep. Erik Paulsen (R., Minn.), said welfare caseloads had fallen by 56 percent since the 1996 welfare overhaul. - AP

Elsewhere:

Two Somalian pirates, Mohamud Hirs Issa Ali and Jilian Abdiali, were sentenced in Norfolk, Va., on Thursday to life in prison for their roles in the hijacking last February of a yacht that left both American couples who were aboard dead. Ali and Abdiali are among 11 men who have pleaded guilty to piracy in the case.