BAGHDAD, Iraq

Seven hostages freed by insurgents

Kidnappers released two female Italian aid workers and five
other hostages yesterday, raising hopes for foreigners still in
captivity. But insurgents showed no sign of easing their
blood-soaked campaign against the U.S. presence in Iraq, staging a
show of defiance in Samarra and striking twice with deadly force in
Basra.

Three Egyptian telecommunications workers abducted last week
were among those freed yesterday, their parent company, Orascom,
announced in Cairo. A fourth Egyptian in the group was released
Monday and two others remain hostage.

It was unclear what prompted the two separate groups of
kidnappers to release their captives, including two Iraqis who had
been seized with the Italian women, and whether any ransom was
paid.

The Italians were wearing full black veils that revealed only
their eyes as they were received by the Italian Red Cross in a
Baghdad neighborhood, according to video broadcast by the Arab news
station Al-Jazeera.

Looking dazed but smiling, Simona Torretta lifted her veil and
repeated, “Thank you,” in Arabic. Simona Pari hesitated
before also lifting her veil.

 

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.

Mental health centers filled after hurricane

It’s not just roofs that have come apart and walls that
are falling down. After four hurricanes in six weeks, many people
in Florida are suffering emotional breakdowns. Mental health
centers have been flooded with calls from people distraught,
depressed or anxious, and authorities say suicides and domestic
violence are up in some places.

At an enormous, crowded relief station at a fairgrounds, one
woman climbed out of her car before she reached the end of the line
and began screaming, “I can’t take this anymore! I
don’t want to do this anymore!” Relief workers calmed
her before taking her to a hospital for treatment.

For another woman, Delores Davis, the stress started taking its
toll three weeks ago after Hurricane Frances smashed her windows,
flooded her carpets and forced her to throw away food she could not
afford to replace.

This week, after Hurricane Jeanne took a swipe at her apartment
over the weekend, she found herself waiting again at a relief
station under a relentless sun. She managed to get a bag of ice,
but wondered where she might find water or a meal for her three
children. Relief workers had no answers.

 

WASHINGTON

Court to decide on gov’t seizure of property

The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to decide when governments
may seize people’s homes and businesses for economic
development projects, a key question as cash-strapped cities seek
ways to generate tax revenue. At issue is the scope of the Fifth
Amendment, which allows governments to take private property
through eminent domain, provided the owner is given “just
compensation and the land is for public use.”

Susette Kelo and several other homeowners in a working-class
neighborhood in New London, Conn., filed a lawsuit after city
officials announced plans to raze their homes to clear the way for
a riverfront hotel, health club and offices. The residents refused
to budge, arguing it was an unjustified taking of their
property.

They argued the taking would be proper only if it served to
revitalize slums or blighted areas dangerous to the public.

 

WASHINGTON

New $50 bill released, changes planned to $10

Coming to cash registers near you: Colorful new $50 bills
sporting splashes of red, blue and yellow. Next up for a makeover,
the government said yesterday: $10 bills.

That would bring to three the number of greenbacks to undergo
the color treatment in an effort to thwart counterfeiters. The new
$10 is expected to be unveiled this spring and put into circulation
in fall 2005, Thomas Ferguson, director of the Bureau of Engraving
and Printing, said.

Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first treasury secretary,
is expected to stay on the front of the new $10, officials said.
Various efforts have emerged to put former President Ronald Reagan
on either the $10 bill or the $20 bill, or possibly the dime.

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