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I had a similar problem, turned out DNS was not working. Try pinging www.linuxquestion.org if that fails try pinging 126.96.36.199 if you get a proper reply then your DNS is not functioning properly. Hope that helps.
I am no pro so you may get a better answer but for now....I had this same problem across several distributions but never found very much about it so I am guessing it is something to do with our environment. I never tried RH 9 but the fixes that worked for me were different for each distribution. Try these:
If RH has a release/renew feature in their network settings applet try that.
On another box I hard coded the DNS settings got everything working that way, removed the static entry, and restarted. That time the box grabbed the server settings correctly.
Also make sure the Automatically obtain DNS information from provider box is checked if you have one.