FALLUJAH, Iraq

U.S. claims extensive control of city

U.S. forces cornered insurgents yesterday in a small pockets of
Fallujah after a stunningly swift advance that seized control of 70
percent of the militant stronghold. An Iraqi general said troops
found “hostage slaughterhouses” where foreign captives
had been killed.

The abandoned houses in northern Fallujah had hostages’
documents, CDs showing captives being killed and black clothing
worn by militants in videos, Maj. Gen. Abdul Qader Mohammed Jassem
Mohan said.

But it appeared troops did not find any of the at least nine
foreigners still in kidnappers’ hands — including two
Americans. “We have found hostage slaughterhouses in Fallujah
that were used by these people,” Mohan said. But he said he
did not know which hostages’ documents were uncovered.

The speed of the U.S. drive in Fallujah may indicate that most
Sunni fighters and their leaders abandoned the city before the
offensive and moved elsewhere to carry on the fight, U.S. officers
said. The most notorious kidnapper, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is
believed to have fled the city.

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast

France, U.S. evacuate trapped foreigners

France, the United States and other nations launched one of the
largest evacuations of Africa’s post-independence era
yesterday, requisitioning commercial jets to fly out thousands of
foreigners following attacks on civilians and peacekeeping
troops.

French soldiers in boats plucked some of their trapped citizens
from the banks of Abidjan’s lagoons.

Long convoys sent out by the U.S. Embassy and other nations
rounded up foreigners from their homes for evacuation as Ivory
Coast’s state TV alternately appealed for calm and for a mass
uprising against the French, the country’s former colonial
rulers.

By late afternoon, much of Ivory Coast’s largest city was
quiet — the first break from violence since Saturday.

French President Jacques Chirac sternly demanded that President
Laurent Gbagbo rein in thousands of hard-line supporters, whose
looting and arson attacks often have failed to discriminate among
foreigners.

Ivory Coast’s “government is pushing to kill white
people — not just the French, all white people,” said
Marie Noel Mion, rescued in a wooden boat at daybreak and waiting
with hundreds of others at Abidjan’s airport, some camped in
tents on the floor.

WASHINGTON

Fed bumps interest rates up quarter point

The Federal Reserve nudged interest rates up another quarter
point yesterday, the fourth moderate rate increase in the past five
months, as Fed officials pointed to encouraging signs that the
economy is finally rebounding from its summer slowdown.

The generally more upbeat tone to the Fed’s official
announcement was seen by many private economists as a signal that
rates will keep moving higher in coming months.

“The Fed is saying that we have tightened, and we are
going to keep on tightening,” said David Wyss, chief
economist at Standard & Poor’s in New York.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and his colleagues took
note of a strengthening economy by speaking more positively than
they had at their last meeting in September about overall economic
growth and the health of the labor market.

WASHINGTON

Bush pushing private Social Security accounts

Fresh off re-election, President Bush is dusting off an
ambitious plan to overhaul Social Security, a controversial
proposal that had been shelved because of politics and the
administration’s focus on tax cuts and terrorism.

Bush envisions a framework that would partially privatize Social
Security with personal investment accounts similar to 401(k)
plans.

A starting point is a plan proposed by a presidential commission
in 2001 that would divert 2 percent of workers’ payroll taxes
into private accounts. The remaining 4.2 percent — and the
Social Security taxes employers pay — would go into the
system, helping fund benefits for current retirees. That leaves a
shortfall of at least $2 trillion to continue funding benefits for
those current retirees.

— Compiled from Daily wire reports

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