Mandela fake signer once faced murder charge

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's government was confronted yesterday with a new and chilling allegation about the bogus sign-language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial: He was reportedly accused of murder 10 years ago.

Officials said they were investigating the revelation by the national eNCA TV news station. But they were unable, or unwilling, to explain why a man who says he is schizophrenic with violent tendencies was allowed to get within arm's length of President Obama and other world leaders.

Investigators probing Thamsanqa Jantjie "will compile a comprehensive report," said Phumla Williams, the top government spokeswoman. But she did not say how long the investigation would take.

Pressure to find missing CIA contractor in Iran

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration faced intensified pressure yesterday to find former CIA contractor Robert Levinson - both from lawmakers and the Levinson family - nearly seven years after he disappeared in Iran during what now has been revealed as an unofficial spy mission.

Levinson's family urged the government "to step up and take care of one of its own." Members of Congress said they wanted to know more about the case, which led to three veteran analysts being forced out of the agency and seven others being disciplined.

Levinson vanished after a March 2007 meeting with an admitted killer on Kish Island, an Iranian resort. For years, the U.S. publicly described him as a private citizen who traveled to the tiny Persian Gulf island on business. But an Associated Press investigation revealed that Levinson actually was a contractor working for the CIA.

Senate sets vote next week on budget

WASHINGTON - One day after winning lopsided House approval, bipartisan legislation to ease across-the-board spending cuts and reduce economy-rattling budget brinkmanship appears likely to command the 60 votes necessary to clear the Senate, officials in both parties said yesterday.

Yet unlike in the House, significantly more Senate Republicans are expected to oppose the legislation than vote for it, highlighting the different political forces at work at opposite ends of the Capitol.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced a test vote for Tuesday on the measure.

- Daily News wire reports