Pelosi backs bill to aid ailing auto industry
WASHINGTON: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for "emergency and limited financial assistance" for the battered auto industry yesterday and urged the outgoing Bush administration to join lawmakers in reaching a quick compromise. Four days after dismal financial reports from General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., Pelosi backed legislation to make the automakers eligible for help under the $700 billion bailout measure that cleared Congress in October. In a written statement, the California Democrat said the aid was needed "in order to prevent the failure of one or more of the major American automobile manufacturers, which would have a devastating impact on our economy, particularly on the men and women who work in that industry."
Former Taiwan leader held in corruption case
TAIPEI, Taiwan : A Taiwanese court ordered former President Chen Shui-bian held on corruption charges today, an ignominious decision for a man who won acclaim for standing up to China with pro-independence policies. The ruling came at the end of a marathon 21-hour court hearing that began with lengthy interrogation yesterday but was interrupted by a trip to the hospital for a minor injury suffered by Chen and didn't conclude until dawn today. Chen, who has denied any wrongdoing, was detained under an order that does not constitute an indictment. He can be held for four months before being formally charged. As prosecutors prepare their case, he is expected to be held in the same jail in suburban Taipei where, as a dissident leader 21 years ago, he served eight months for defaming an official of the ruling Nationalist Party.
Iraq reopens bridge where hundreds died
BAGHDAD: In a symbolic gesture of unity yesterday, Iraqi authorities reopened a bridge linking Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods that had been closed since a 2005 stampede claimed nearly 1,000 lives - the single biggest loss of life of the Iraq war. The Imams Bridge spans the Tigris River and links the Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah - a former al-Qaida stronghold - and the Shiite district of Kazimiyah, where Shiite militias once held sway. It has been closed since Aug, 31, 2005, when rumors of a suicide bomber panicked thousands of Shiite pilgrims walking to a religious shrine in Kazimiyah. Iraqi officials said nearly 1,000 people died, including those who dived into the river or were crushed in the stampede. The bridge remained closed to prevent gunmen from using it to launch attacks on the rival religious communities.
Secular candidate wins Jerusalem mayoral vote
JERUSALEM: Jerusalem's voters ended five years of ultra-Orthodox rabbinical leadership at City Hall, choosing as mayor yesterday a secular businessman who had promised to reverse the city's slide into poverty and the exodus of its Jewish population. Israel Radio said near-complete returns gave self-made millionaire Nir Barkat an unbeatable lead over Rabbi Meir Porush and two other candidates. Porush conceded defeat after an unofficial count from 600 of the 707 polling stations gave him 38 percent of the vote and Barkat 51 percent. Russian-born tycoon Arkady Gaydamak received 7 percent, according to unofficial results. The winner needed at least 40 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff. The election was part of a fierce struggle between secular and religious forces over Jerusalem's Jewish identity. Most Arabs, who make up about one-third of the city's 760,000 population, boycotted the vote to protest Israel's claim of sovereignty over the city.
Fat kids show early signs of heart damage
NEW ORLEANS: Obese children as young as 10 had the arteries of 45-year-olds and other heart abnormalities that greatly raise their risk of heart disease, say doctors who used ultrasound tests to take a peek inside. The studies were reported yesterday at an American Heart Association conference. About a third of American children are overweight and one-fifth are obese. Many parents think that "baby fat" will melt away as kids get older. But research increasingly shows that fat kids become fat adults, with higher risks for many health problems. Dr. Geetha Raghuveer of Children's Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., wanted to see if early signs of damage could be documented. She and colleagues used painless ultrasound tests to measure the thickness of the wall of a major neck artery in 70 children, ages 10 to 16. Almost all had abnormal cholesterol, and many were obese.