Commission removesjudge from bench
LOS ANGELES -- A judge who inflated his educational achievements and falsely claimed he worked for the CIA and fought in Vietnam has been ordered removed from the bench.
In a 16-page order issued Wednesday, the state Commission on Judicial Performance said Superior Court Judge Patrick Couwenberg's fabrications were so egregious that it had no choice but to oust him.
"He lied to become a judge, elaborated on his misrepresentations for his enrobing ceremony and subsequently lied to the commission in an apparent attempt to frustrate its investigation," the commission order signed by Chairman Michael A. Kahn said.
Couwenberg's attorney, Edward P. George Jr., admitted his client is a compulsive liar but said he is a victim of a mental condition called "pseudologia fantastica" for which he is undergoing treatment.
"This removal has nothing to do with his on-the-bench conduct," George said. "It's strictly misstatements, some under oath, and he's under therapy right now and has so been during the last five months and has been making great progress."
Millionaire balloonistreaches South America
ST. LOUIS -- A day after breaking the endurance record for a solo balloonist, millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett reached South America -- and its towering Andes mountains -- on his bid to circle the globe.
Air traffic controllers in Chile sent Fossett a note of welcome and said they would toast his arrival with a bottle of Chilean red wine.
As of 11 p.m. Wednesday, Fossett was traveling 33 mph about 50 miles north of Antofagasta, Chile.
"The distance to go is daunting, but we are on our way," Fossett told his St. Louis-based mission control team.
Before reaching South America, Fossett spent nine days miles above the South Pacific in his quest to become the first balloonist to make a solo flight around the world. Since launching Aug. 4 from Australia, he has traveled more than 11,500 miles.
On Tuesday, Fossett broke the solo balloon endurance record of 10 days, 3 hours and 28 minutes, set last year by Kevin Uliassi when he covered more than 13,000 miles before aborting his own solo around-the-world balloon bid because of equipment problems.
Laboratory unveilsgiant supercomputer
LIVERMORE, Calif. -- After keeping the world's most powerful supercomputer to themselves for a year, government researchers showed off the $110 million wonder Wednesday and said it might help save the world from nuclear war.
With the ability to perform 12.3 trillion calculations a second, the supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory mainly will be used to simulate how the nation's aging nuclear weapons arsenal would function if launched.
Those simulations must be as precise as possible because the United States suspended underground nuclear tests in 1992.
Gen. John Gordon, the Department of Energy's under secretary for nuclear security, called the supercomputer the "key to the country's mission of maintaining the stockpile" and assuring nuclear deterrence.
The supercomputer -- known as Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative White, or ASCI White -- has a mind-boggling amount of other uses, say researchers who use it.
ASCI White is roughly as powerful as 50,000 desktop computers. It can store the equivalent of 300 million books, or six Libraries of Congress.
Election reform lawsuit
MIAMI -- A Florida voter rights group sued state officials Wednesday, warning that parts of an election reform law could return the state to its "Jim Crow" past.
The plaintiffs object to a list of voter responsibilities that will be posted at polling places along with a list of voter rights. They said the signs amount to literacy tests and would discourage minority voters.
Signs will direct voters, among other things, to "study and know candidates and issues," "bring proper identification to the polling station" and check their completed ballots for accuracy.
"We believe that the voter responsibilities section of that act is a step so far backward as to be a literacy test," said JoNel Newman, a lawyer with the Florida Equal Voting Rights Project, a project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.
Lawmakers overhauled the state's election laws last spring in the wake of the disputed presidential election. Florida's voting system endured intense scrutiny after a razor-thin margin forced a recount and gave George W. Bush the presidency over Al Gore.