Bush to raise military death payment

President Bush will propose a dramatic increase to $250,000 in government payments to families of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and in future combat zones.

The plan to increase the tax-free “death gratuity,” now $12,420, to $100,000 and provide an extra $150,000 in life insurance payouts will be part the 2006 budget proposal submitted to Congress next week, the Pentagon’s personnel chief said in an Associated Press interview. Veterans groups and many in Congress have been pushing for such increases.

“We think the nation ought to make a larger one-time payment, quite apart from insurance, should you be killed in a combat area of operations,” David Chu, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said in the interview in his Pentagon office.

“We can never in any program give someone back their loved one,” he added. “There is nothing we can do about the hurt, to make it go away. But we can make your circumstances reasonable, in terms of finances.”

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip

Palestinian girl’s death sparks violence

The killing of a 10-year-old Palestinian girl in a Gaza schoolyard yesterday prompted Islamic militants to fire mortar shells at Jewish settlements and endangered an unofficial cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians.

The renewed violence overshadowed a meeting between top Israeli and Palestinian security officials who worked yesterday to arrange a handover of several West Bank towns to Palestinian control. Israeli officials said the security meeting ended with no accord on a handover.

Although the circumstances of Norhan Deeb’s death were unclear, the violence strained the recent atmosphere of goodwill between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and new Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas.

The girl was killed in the courtyard of a U.N. school in the Rafah refugee camp near the Egyptian border, a frequent flashpoint of violence between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen.

Palestinian witnesses said the gunfire came from a nearby Israeli military position. along the border.


New causes of cancer added to gov’t list

The government is adding viruses for the first time to its list of known or suspected causes of cancer, including hepatitis B and C and a third virus that causes sexually transmitted diseases. Lead, X-rays and compounds in grilled meats also are joining the list.

It has been known that the hepatitis viruses can cause liver cancer and that some forms of the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus can cause cervical cancer.

But they were added to the list yesterday only after officials decided to go beyond the report’s historical focus on the occupational and environmental causes of cancer, said Dr. Christopher Portier, associate director of the National Toxicology Program, which prepared the latest update.

“We felt (the report) needed to be expanded to include other things in our general environment that can cause cancer,” Portier said.

SBC to buy former parent company AT&T

The purchase of AT&T Corp. by SBC Communications Inc. saves “Ma Bell” from a nosedive into irrelevance in the industry it created more than a century ago. It also gives SBC the name and the network to fulfill its goal of being viewed as a truly national player rather than just a local telephone company.

The $16 billion marriage of long-bitter rivals, which may take until mid-2006 to clear intense regulatory scrutiny, would add long distance and business services to the list of markets where SBC holds a dominant role. It is already the first or second largest U.S. provider of local calling, wireless and Internet services.

The deal announced yesterday also sparks immediate speculation as to whether two other largely regional powers, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp., will need to keep pace by purchasing MCI Corp. for its national network infrastructure and roster of corporate clients.









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