Baghdad death toll continues to rise

BAGHDAD, Iraq – A car bomb exploded yesterday west of Baghdad, killing at least four people a day after three dozen people died in a wave of suicide bombings in the Iraqi capital. U.S. officials said one of Baghdad’s three deputy mayors was killed in a hit-and-run shooting.

The latest attacks, including the killing Sunday of Deputy Mayor Faris Abdul Razzaq al-Assam, raised fears that a strengthened insurgency is increasingly targeting Iraqis who work with the U.S.-led coalition as well as international groups that had considered themselves at less risk than U.S. soldiers.

Despite the escalation in attacks on Iraqis, American forces remained targets, with insurgents firing on a U.S. military base and convoy in two northern cities yesterday.

In Baghdad, a rocket-propelled grenade attack killed one U.S. soldier and wounded six others while they were trying to destroy roadside bombs, the U.S. military said yesterday.

The soldiers, from the 1st Armored Division, were attacked Monday, the same day a team of suicide car bombers devastated the Red Cross headquarters and three police stations, killing three dozen people and wounding more than 200.

Ambush kills 2 Americans in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan – Two Americans working for the CIA have been killed in an ambush while tracking terrorists in Afghanistan, the agency said yesterday.

The ambush Saturday happened on the same day and in the same region as a six-hour firefight in which U.S.-led coalition aircraft and Afghan militia killed 18 rebel fighters, the U.S. military reported from its headquarters in Afghanistan yesterday.

Six Afghan militia soldiers were wounded in the fighting, but there were no coalition casualties, the military said. It was unclear whether the two incidents were linked, but the military did not explain why its account of the fighting was delayed by three days.

In Washington, the CIA identified the two men as William Carlson, 43, of Southern Pines, N.C., and Christopher Glenn Mueller, 32, of San Diego. Both were veterans of military special operations forces, the CIA said.

They were “tracking terrorists operating in the region” of Shkin, a village in eastern Afghanistan, when they were killed Saturday, the CIA said in a statement.

The pair was working for the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, which conducts clandestine intelligence-gathering and covert operations.

Dems back down, approve EPA chief

WASHINGTON – Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt won Senate confirmation yesterday to become head of the Environmental Protection Agency after Senate Democrats sharply critical of the Bush administration backed down in the face of an overwhelming Republican show of force.

The lopsided 88-8 vote did not reflect the intense efforts by some Democrats to hold up the nomination as they attacked the Bush administration’s environmental decisions.

President Bush’s nomination of Leavitt to head the 18,000-employee agency was helped by the Utah Republican’s three terms as governor, during which he forged personal relationships with many Senate Democrats, some of them former governors.

“He’s very good at bringing people together,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said moments before the vote in explaining why he was supporting Leavitt.

Fed leaves interest rate at record low

WASHINGTON – The Federal Reserve left a key interest rate at a 45-year low yesterday and repeated its pledge to keep rates low for some time to come.

Many economists predicted the central bank will wait until late 2004 before starting to raise rates, to give the economic recovery time to gain momentum.

The Federal Reserve went out of its way in yesterday’s brief statement to avoid surprises that might have caused financial markets to suspect that gathering signs of stronger growth might prompt the Fed to start raising interest rates in coming months.

The central bank said its chief unease remained the remote threat that an already low inflation rate could fall lower and trigger a destabilizing bout of deflation.

Striking black gold is black day for families

DORTON, Ky. – When Rodger and Melissa Bentley noticed that the well at their Kentucky home was filled with a bubbling crude, they didn’t run off to tell relatives they had struck it rich. That is because they found just enough of the oil to foul their only source of drinking water and enough natural gas to cause their well house to explode in flames.

Such stories have become all too familiar in central Appalachia, where a myriad of holes have been drilled deep beneath the mountains to extract oil and natural gas. Some residents say the oil and gas have seeped into their water wells, ruining them and creating the risk of an explosion.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports.


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