American civilians in Kuwait shot

KUWAIT CITY

A gunman ambushed two Americans driving near a U.S. military base yesterday in Kuwait, killing one and wounding another in what U.S. officials branded a terror attack.

The shooting was the first assault on U.S. civilians in Kuwait and the third on Americans since October in the oil-rich emirate, where pro-American sentiment is usually strong and where thousands of U.S. troops are assembling for a possible war on Iraq.

The victims – civilian contractors working for the U.S. military – were traveling in a four-wheel-drive Toyota when they came under a hail of bullets.

The U.S. Embassy identified the man killed as Michael Rene Pouliot, 46, of San Diego, an employee of a software development company, Tapestry Solutions.

Tapestry identified the injured man as another employee, David Caraway, a senior software engineer.

He was in stable condition in a Kuwait hospital after surgery to remove bullets, including two from his chest. He also had arm and thigh wounds, a hospital official said.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack. U.S. and Kuwaiti officials said they believed a single gunman fired a Kalashnikov assault rifle at the vehicle. The attacker then fled.

Labs falsifying test results, Justice Dept. says

WASHINGTON

Private laboratories are increasingly being caught falsifying test results for water supplies, petroleum products, underground tanks and soil, hampering the government’s ability to ensure Americans are protected by environmental laws, investigators say.

The fraud has caused millions of people to fill their cars with substandard gasoline that may have violated clean air standards, or to drink water not properly tested for safety, the officials told The Associated Press.

In addition, officials making decisions at hazardous waste cleanup sites have relied on companies that fraudulently tested air, water and soil samples.

“In recent years, what has come to our attention is that outside (non-government) labs are oftentimes in bed with the people who hired them, and conspired to commit environmental crime,” said David Uhlmann, chief of the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section.

The EPA’s watchdog against fraud, Inspector General Nikki Tinsley, has called the rise of lab fraud a disturbing trend.

Civilians deployed to aid war effort

MEXICO CITY

A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City and the country’s Pacific coast late yesterday, sending panicked residents spilling into capital streets and knocking out power to large swaths of the city.

The national seismological service said the 7.6-magnitude quake struck at 8:07 p.m. on the coast of Colima, a small state which includes the port city of Manzanillo, about 300 miles west of Mexico City. The U.S. Geological Survey calculated the strength of the quake at magnitude 7.3.

“There are general reports of damage from the states of Colima, Michoacan and Jalisco,” Survey spokesman Butch Kinerney said. “Because of the size of the earthquake and its shallow depth, USGA is expecting substantial damage.”

Mexico’s national civil defense chief Carmen Segura told local news media that there were no early reports of damage from Colima or the neighboring state of Jalisco.

War concerns blamed for market plummet

NEW YORK

Wall Street looked askance at earnings reports yesterday, with investors bidding stocks sharply lower despite healthy profits at such companies as 3M and Ford. The Dow Jones industrials slid more than 143 points, giving the blue chips a drop of nearly 400 points over four straight losing sessions.

Analysts said a spate of disappointing corporate outlooks last week along with ongoing fears of war with Iraq made investors skeptical of better-than-expected earnings.

“The reference that the economy might not have had a demonstrable turn yet is really setting people off,” said Ned Riley, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors.

Concerns about war increased after news that a gunman in Kuwait opened fire on a vehicle carrying American civilians, killing one and wounding another.

Peace plan proposed by Jimmy Carter

CARACAS, Venezuela

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jimmy Carter proposed a plan yesterday to lead Venezuela to elections and end a 51-day-old strike against President Hugo Chavez, which has dramatically cut production in the No. 5 oil-exporting country.

Carter’s ideas were the first concrete proposals to emerge from more than two months of talks between the government and Venezuela’s opposition, which called the strike to demand early elections or Chavez’s resignation.

Both Chavez and opposition leaders reacted cautiously, saying they merited study. Carter said the first plan would amend Venezuela’s constitution to shorten presidential and legislative terms of office and stage early general elections.

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