Insurgent attacks in Iraq kill 33

Iraqi insurgents set off bombs and fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at military convoys, checkpoints and police patrols in a spate of violence yesterday that killed 33 people and wounded dozens.

The terror group Al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for much of the bloodshed.

As the attacks persisted, so did negotiations to form Iraq’s first democratically elected government. Iraqi Kurds said they were close to a deal with the Shiite clergy-backed United Iraqi Alliance to secure many of their territorial demands and ensure the country’s secular character after its National Assembly convenes March 16.

The dominant Shiite Muslim alliance, however, said although it agreed that Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani would become Iraq’s president, it was still talking about other conditions set by the Kurds for their support in the 275-member legislative body.

The Shiite alliance controls 140 seats and need the 75 seats won by the Kurds in the Jan. 30 elections to muster the necessary two-thirds majority to elect a president and later seat their choice for prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari.


Senate unlikely to raise minimum wage

The Senate lined up yesterday to defeat dueling proposals to raise the minimum wage, one backed by organized labor, the other salted with pro-business provisions, in a day of skirmishing that reflected Republican gains in last fall’s elections.

Aides in both parties agreed mutually assured defeat was the likely outcome, with both alternatives falling short of the 60 votes needed to prevail.

“I believe that anyone who works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year should not live in poverty in the richest country in the world,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), the lead supporter of the Democratic proposal to increase the federal wage floor by $2.10 over the next 26 months. He accused Republicans of advancing a “deeper poverty agenda” for the poor by including provisions to cut long-standing wage and overtime protections for millions of Americans.

Kennedy took particular aim at Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a conservative who is atop the Democratic target list for 2006 and the lead supporter of the GOP minimum wage alternative. “The senator from Pennsylvania has a record of opposing increases in the minimum wage,” he said. “He has voted against it at least 17 times in the last 10 years.”


Boeing CEO forced out over affair with exec

Boeing Co. CEO Harry Stonecipher, brought back from retirement 15 months ago to boost the aerospace manufacturer’s tainted image, has been forced out because of a scandal involving an affair he had this year with a female company executive.

In a stunning announcement that left the exact circumstances behind the ouster unclear, Boeing said yesterday the 68-year-old president and chief executive officer had resigned at the board’s request a day earlier for improper behavior while carrying out the consensual relationship.

Chairman Lew Platt said the affair by itself did not violate the code of business conduct at the company, where a string of defense scandals has raised questions about the way Boeing obtains its lucrative contracts. But an internal investigation that started because of an employee’s complaint discovered “some issues of poor judgment” involving Stonecipher, who is married


Aspirin shows reverse effects for women

In a stunning example of gender differences in medicine, a new study found that aspirin helps healthy women avoid strokes but makes no difference in their risk of heart attacks unless they’re 65 or older — the polar opposite of how the drug affects men.

Aspirin is recommended now for both men and women at high risk of heart disease. Many doctors have assumed it also prevented heart problems in healthy women because of research showing it helped healthy men.

The new study “raises issues about the dangers of generalization,” said Dr. Paul Ridker of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, one of the researchers. “This is an issue we thought we already had an answer to.”


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