JERUSALEM

Sharon: All settlers will leave Gaza

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said yesterday that all 8,200 Jewish
settlers will be pulled out of the Gaza Strip starting next summer
and the operation will last 12 weeks. In the meantime, Sharon said
Israel would broaden its military offensive “until the
shooting stops.”

In Washington, the Bush administration renewed its approval of a
planned pullout from Gaza and said the timing was up to
Sharon’s government but hoped the withdrawal will be a link
to a peace based on the “road map” plan.

Israel Radio reported that the pullout would begin in May, but
participants in the closed parliamentary meeting Sharon addressed
yesterday quoted him as saying only that it would start in the
summer.

The original “unilateral disengagement” plan,
approved in June, called for a four-stage pullout beginning in
summer 2005. Sharon tried to advance the date to the beginning of
2005, but a month ago reverted to the original formula.

Early yesterday, Israeli tanks and bulldozers pulled back from
the Palestinian town of Beit Lahiya earlier in the day after
tearing up roads, flattening greenhouses and knocking down dozens
of houses.

 

WASHINGTON

U.S. trade gap with China at all-time high

The trade deficit jumped to the second-highest level in history
as surging demand for foreign oil swamped a small gain in U.S.
exports, the government reported yesterday. America’s trade
gap with China hit an all-time high as retailers stocked up on cell
phones, toys and televisions in preparation for Christmas
sales.

The worse-than-expected trade performance in August — a
deficit of $54 billion — represented a 6.9 percent widening
from July’s trade gap of $50.5 billion. The record monthly
deficit was set in June at $55 billion.

Exports, helped by a rise in shipments of commercial aircraft
and record foreign sales of American cars and auto parts, rose by a
slight 0.1 percent to $96 billion in August. However, this
improvement was overwhelmed by a 2.5 percent surge in imports to a
record $150.1 billion as America’s foreign oil bill climbed
to the highest level in history. The average price for crude oil
jumped to a 23-year high of $36.37 per barrel.

Analysts said the bad news on trade will only get worse in
coming months given that oil prices have continued to soar, with
crude oil hitting a new record of $54.76 per barrel yesterday.

 

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan

U.S.-Russian crew takes off for space station

A new Russian-U.S. crew headed to the international space
station yesterday, surging into orbit aboard a Soyuz spacecraft
none of the three astronauts has piloted before.

The Soyuz have been the only manned vehicles able to reach the
orbiting research lab since the U.S. space shuttle fleet was
grounded 20 months ago after the Columbia burned up on
re-entry.

Russians Salizhan Sharipov and Yuri Shargin and American Leroy
Chiao were flying their first mission in a Soyuz spacecraft —
a rare rupture with a tradition of having at least one crewman with
previous experience in piloting the capsule.

Chiao and Sharipov both have flown U.S. space shuttles, while
Shargin is a space rookie.

 

STOCKHOLM, Sweden

Study: Cell phones may raise risk of rare tumor

A Swedish study suggests that people who use a cell phone for at
least 10 years might increase their risk of developing a rare
benign tumor along a nerve on the side of the head where they hold
the phone.

In an interview yesterday with The Associated Press, one of the
researchers behind the preliminary study, Anders Ahlbom, said the
results were surprising and more research is needed.

Several previous studies have investigated whether the use of
cell phones is linked to an increased risk of brain tumors.
Although experiments have shown radiation from mobile phones can
affect brain cells in a lab, more relevant studies on people have
found no evidence that the phones pose a health risk.

— Compiled from Daily wire reports

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