A third delay

for Padilla trial

MIAMI - A federal judge yesterday delayed by three months the trial of alleged al-Qaeda operative Jose Padilla and two others, in part to allow time for a full evaluation of Padilla's mental competence.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke set a new trial date of April 16. It was the third time the case had been postponed.

Padilla, 36, a U.S. citizen, is charged with being part of a North American cell that provided cash, supplies and recruits to Islamic extremists. Arrested in 2002 in Chicago, he was held without charges at a Navy brig for more than three years as an enemy combatant, originally accused of plotting to detonate a "dirty bomb" in a U.S. city. He was added to the Miami terrorism-support case in 2005.

His trial had been scheduled to start Jan. 22. - AP

Senator critical

of new forest chief

WASHINGTON - Montana forester Gail Kimbell was named yesterday to head the U.S. Forest Service - the first woman to do so - and came under fire from a Senate Democrat who represents her state.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) said Kimbell had shown she was "inclined to raise fees, close campgrounds, and otherwise make it harder for people to access their lands to raise revenue."

Kimbell, who succeeds retiring chief Dale Bosworth, has supervised national forests through Idaho, Montana and the Dakotas, and helped develop President Bush's "healthy forests" program widely criticized by environmentalists as a giveaway to logging companies.

The job doesn't require Senate confirmation. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said Kimbell "brings a wealth of knowledge" to the post.- AP

Mars rover's '97 site

found by new craft

LOS ANGELES - The newest spacecraft circling Mars has spotted the landing site of the 1997 Pathfinder probe, including what appears to be its discarded protective shell and parachute, and possibly its rover Sojourner.

The view beamed back by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter should give scientists details about Pathfinder's descent and the mission's final days.

Pathfinder bounced to a July 4 landing in 1997. It sent its last transmission that September. Scientists believe it might have had temperature-related problems as a result of battery failure. - AP

Elsewhere:

President Bush signed a law yesterday making it a crime to lie to obtain private citizens' phone records. Violators face fines and up to 10 years in prison.

Former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D., Tenn.) is set to become chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Ford, 36, will succeed Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a presidential candidate.

The Agriculture Department will send an inspector to the Cleveland Clinic, where a neurosurgeon demonstrating a medical device to salespeople deliberately induced a brain aneurysm in a dog, which was later destroyed. The hospital said it had not authorized the procedure.