News briefs

Published April 10, 2008

WASHINGTON

Bush to halt Iraq troop withdrawals

President Bush yesterday ordered an indefinite halt in U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq after July, embracing the key recommendations of his top war commander. Bush said Gen. David Petraeus will "have all the time he needs" to consider when more American forces could return home.

Bush's decisions virtually guarantee a major U.S. presence in Iraq throughout his term in office in January, when a new president takes office.

In another major decision, the president announced he will seek to relieve the heavy strain on the Army by reducing the length of combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan to 12 months, down from the current level of 15 months. He said the change would take effect on Aug. 1, and would not affect U.S. forces already deployed on the front lines.

ROANOKE, Va.

Family members of Va. Tech victims agree to $11M settlement

Most families of victims of the mass shootings at Virginia Tech have agreed to an $11 million state settlement that will compensate families who lost loved ones, pay survivors' medical costs and avoid a court battle over whether anyone besides the gunman was to blame.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said yesterday a "substantial majority" of families of victims of the Virginia Tech shootings agreed to the settlement.

Peter Grenier and Douglas Fierberg, who represent 21 families, said the settlement was worth more than $11 million, but neither they nor the governor would discuss its terms until final papers are drawn in a few days.

DETROIT

Obama's former pastor to speak at NAACP dinner

The embattled former minister of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has been selected as the keynote speaker for the Detroit branch of the NAACP's 53rd Annual Fight for Freedom Fund dinner.

The civil rights organization said yesterday the Rev. Jeremiah Wright will speak April 27 at the event - which is slated to seat 10,000 - whose past speakers have included Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton.

Wright has been criticized for inflammatory remarks about everything from race relations to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He recently retired from Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ.

Obama has denounced the most inflammatory of Wright's comments, but says he shouldn't be judged solely on a handful of remarks.

SEATTLE

Dalai Lama begins visit to America

The Dalai Lama arrived in the United States yesterday for the first time since the recent turmoil in Tibet, serenaded by felow Tibetans as he prepared to anchor an ambitious conference on compassion.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader came here a day after demonstrators disrupted the Olympic torch run in San Francisco in a protest of China's treatment of his people. The Dalai Lama will be attending a five-day conference that begins Friday.

With the Dalai Lama in town, some community leaders said they expected counter-demonstrations from pro-China groups."

The Dalai Lama is slated to visit the University April 20.

- Compiled from Daily wire reports