Grandmother pleads guilty in Texas child porn case

MARSHALL, Texas - A woman prosecutors said helped make a graphic videotape of her two visiting grandchildren has pleaded guilty in a Texas child pornography case.

The U.S. attorney's office said Friday that 51-year-old Denise Ward of Overland Park, Kan., pleaded to coerced sexual activity.

Ward was living in Texas' Harrison County in May 2000, when she is accused of helping produce a tape in which her grandchildren, 10 and 11 at the time, were photographed nude.

First ships travel river after oil spill

NEW ORLEANS - The first of 200 ships idled by a massive oil spill began crawling down the Mississippi River on Friday after the Coast Guard reopened the waterway to traffic, but it could be days before all of the ships are cleared.

A 100-mile stretch of the river has been shut down since Wednesday, when a barge split open in a collision with the Liberian-flagged tanker Tintomara. Roughly 419,000 gallons spilled into the fast-flowing waterway to commerce, and crews have sopped up about 11,000 - just a fraction of what the barge was carrying.

Audit says abandoned mines pose severe hazards

WASHINGTON - The government has endangered the public's health and safety by failing to clean up abandoned mines on federal land in the West, according to a scathing audit released Friday.

The Interior Department's inspector general found dangerous levels of arsenic, lead and mercury, along with gaping cavities, at dilapidated hard-rock mining sites easily accessible to visitors and residents.

Report urges overhauling how passports are issued

WASHINGTON - The State Department insisted Friday it can handle the growing demand for passports, despite congressional investigators' findings that the agency has not overhauled the system to avoid repeating last summer's backlog.

The State Department has not developed a 'comprehensive, long-term strategy' to modernize its passport application process, according to a report issued Friday by the Government Accountability Office.