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Congolese rebels declare cease-fire

NAIROBI, Kenya: Rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo announced yesterday a unilateral cease-fire that should stem violence that has displaced 200,000 people since August. Earlier in the day, false reports about advancing rebels sent thousands of panicked families fleeing a displacement camp and storming into the city of Goma, where they jammed streets, rioted and attacked U.N. vehicles. A spokesman for rebel leader Gen. Laurent Nkunda confirmed the cease-fire agreement but provided no further details. Experts said the rebel leader is probably moving to solidify his recent territorial gains in the hopes that it will help him in peace talks with the government.

Iowa meatpacking plant is fined $10 million

IOWA CITY, Iowa: A kosher meatpacking plant that was the site of one of the nation's largest immigration raids was fined nearly $10 million by the state yesterday over accusations that it violated state labor laws. Iowa Labor Commissioner Dave Neil assessed the civil penalties against Agriprocessors in Postville for what he called repeated violations of Iowa's wage laws from January 2006 to June 2008. An Agriprocessors spokesman didn't immediately respond to a call seeking comment. The company has 30 days to contest the proposed fines.

Iraq identifies changes in pact with U.S.

BAGHDAD: Iraq wants a security agreement with the United States to include a clear ban on U.S. troops using Iraqi territory to attack Iraq's neighbors, a government spokesman said yesterday, three days after a U.S. raid on Syria. Ali al-Dabbagh said the ban was among four proposed amendments to the draft agreement approved by the Cabinet this week and forwarded to the United States. President Bush said yesterday that the United States had received and negotiators were analyzing the Iraqis' proposed amendments to the so-called Status of Forces Agreement.

Neb. governor to call session to fix haven law

LINCOLN, Neb.: Deciding he could wait no longer, Gov. Dave Heineman said yesterday that he will call a special legislative session to fix a safe-haven law that in just a few months has allowed parents to abandon nearly two dozen children as old as 17. Heineman had planned to wait until the next regular legislative session convened in January but changed his mind as the number of children dropped off at hospitals grew.

Mercury photos reveal lots of volcanic activity

Scientists poring over data from the NASA Messenger spacecraft say they're impressed by evidence of widespread volcanic activity on Mercury during the planet's early history. Yesterday, Maria Zuber, an MIT scientist, pointed out a 60-mile-wide crater filled by enough smooth, solidified lava to bury the Baltimore-Washington region more than a mile deep. Messenger's photos, snapped during its Oct. 6 flyby, reveal "an awful lot of volcanic material in one place for such a little planet," she said. Researchers expect to learn more about the planet's surface and evolution when the Maryland-built Messenger spacecraft returns to Mercury in September and slips into orbit there in March 2011.

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