N. Orleans pumps prompt questions

NEW ORLEANS - Government Accountability Office investigators are meeting with Army Corps of Engineers officials to ask questions about drainage pumps that were installed before last year's hurricane season despite apparently being defective.

The pumps were produced by a Florida company under a $26.6 million contract awarded after Hurricane Katrina. They provide flood protection by draining water from this largely below-sea-level city.

A Corps engineer working on the pumps project warned last spring that the machinery had problems that most likely would keep it from performing under hurricane conditions. Last year was a mild hurricane season, so the pumps were not tested in an emergency. - AP

Probes continue on Foley messages

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Six months after resigning from Congress, former Rep. Mark Foley (R., Fla.) remains under criminal investigation for sexually explicit Internet communications with underage boys but has not been charged, authorities said yesterday.

"We're still in the preliminary investigative stance and we are working with state authorities," said Debra Weierman, spokeswoman for the FBI's Washington field office. Florida authorities announced their own criminal investigation in November but have remained tight-lipped on the status since then.

Foley resigned Sept. 29 after being confronted with the lurid messages to male teenage pages who had worked on Capitol Hill. Attorney David Roth maintains that Foley never had sexual contact with the minors.- AP

Engineer on trial in data-theft case

SANTA ANA, Calif. - A Chinese American engineer at a major defense contractor went on trial yesterday on charges he stole information on U.S. military technology for two decades to send to China.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Staples painted Chi Mak, 66, an engineer at Power Paragon, as a longtime agent who had been sending sensitive material to China since 1983, two years before he became a U.S. citizen. Federal agents asked Mak why he did it, Staples said in his opening argument.

"The defendant said, 'I wanted to help China,' " Staples said.

Defense attorney Marilyn Bednarski vehemently denied that her client had confessed, calling him a devoted American who never forwarded material he thought was restricted.

If convicted, Mak could get more than 50 years in prison. - AP

Elsewhere:

Fire broke out on the roof of a 45-story Chicago office building yesterday, sending some workers fleeing. Firefighters confined the flames to equipment on the roof, and it damaged only the building's exterior.

Steve Forbes, the CEO of Forbes Inc. who twice sought the Republican presidential nomination, endorsed former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for 2008 and said he would join the campaign as a senior adviser.

The amount of money given to former Sen. John Edwards' presidential campaign via the Internet increased about 50 percent since he and his wife, Elizabeth, announced last Thursday that her cancer had returned. Since then, the Democrat has collected about $540,000 online, a tally by ActBlue.com found.