U.S. finds terrorist command center

U.S. troops sweeping through Fallujah yesterday found what appeared to be a command center used by followers of Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and a U.S. general expressed confidence the battle for the city has “broken the back of the insurgency.” A separate raid near the suspected command center uncovered a bomb-making workshop where a sports-utility vehicle registered in Texas was being converted into a car bomb and a classroom that held flight plans and instructions on shooting down planes, according to a CNN crew embedded with the U.S. Army.

Gunbattles still flared in Fallujah as troops hunted holdout insurgents five days after the military said its forces had occupied the entire city 40 miles west of Baghdad. One U.S. Marine and one Iraqi soldier were killed, U.S. officials said.

At a base outside Fallujah, Lt. Gen. John Sattler, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said the U.S. casualty toll in the Fallujah offensive stood at 51 dead and about 425 wounded. An estimated 1,200 insurgents have been killed, with about 1,025 enemy fighters detained, the military says.

Sattler told reporters he felt the U.S.-led attack on the city had dealt a serious blow to the insurgency.



Possible mad cow case being investigated

The government is checking a possible new case of mad cow disease, officials said yesterday, rattling the nation’s cattle industry, food processors and beef-oriented restaurant chains.

Additional checks are being conducted after initial testing proved inconclusive on the suspect brain tissue. Officials said the animal never entered the food or feed chain.

The Agriculture Department gave no information on the location or origin of the slaughtered animal and said results from advanced tests were not expected before four to seven days.

Ranches and businesses dependent on beef are still feeling financial effects from the nation’s only confirmed case of the fatal brain-wasting disease last December.

And yesterday’s announcement sent cattle prices tumbling on fears that foreign markets would remain closed to U.S. beef. Shares of McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and other restaurant chains that feature hamburgers also slumped, as did those of U.S. meat producers.



Specter named chair of judiciary committee

Arlen Specter yesterday won the backing of Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans to be their new chairman, surviving complaints from abortion opponents after submitting an extraordinary statement underscoring his support for Bush judicial nominees.

“I have assured the president that I would give his nominees quick committee hearings and early committee votes,” Specter said at a news conference during which outgoing chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said the panel’s Republicans were unanimous in backing the Pennsylvania moderate.

“I have no reason to believe that I’ll be unable to support any individual President Bush finds worthy” of the federal bench, Specter told reporters.



Chief executive, co-founder of Nike steps down

Phil Knight stepped down yesterday as president and chief executive officer of Nike Inc., the $12 billion athletic shoe and clothing company he co-founded and built into the world’s largest shoe maker and one of its best-known brands.

He will be succeeded by William Perez, head of S.C. Johnson & Son Inc., maker of Glade air fresheners and Drano drain cleaner.

Knight, 66, will remain chairman of the company’s board of directors, the company said. He did not give a reason for his resignation, which is effective Dec. 28.

“I am confident that as CEO of Nike, Inc., Bill will lead Nike’s extraordinary team of people to create an even bigger and better global company,” Knight said in a statement.

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