BAGHDAD

Al-Sistani endorses Iraq constitution

The country’s most powerful Shiite cleric endorsed the draft constitution yesterday, rejecting opposition voiced by two popular leaders of Iraq’s majority sect and underlining a rift also on display in anti-British violence in the southern city of Basra.

Two officials in the Shiite Muslim hierarchy in Najaf said Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called senior aides together and told them to promote a “yes” vote among the faithful during the Oct. 15 national referendum on the constitution.

The officials refused to be identified because they are not authorized to speak for al-Sistani, who only issues statements through his office and makes no public appearances.

Iraq’s minority Sunni Arabs, who lost power and privilege with the fall of Saddam Hussein in the U.S.-led invasion, are deeply opposed to the constitution. They form the bulk of the country’s violent insurgency and have stepped up attacks on Shiites in advance of the vote.

 

LOS ANGELES

Passengers saw near-crash on onboard TV

Letting customers watch TV at their seats has been a JetBlue calling card since the airline took flight in 1999.

But the frill made for a bizarre experience as passengers aboard an airliner with a crippled nose wheel watched news reports about their own flight even as they prepared for an emergency landing.

Some of those aboard Flight 292, which landed safely Wednesday at Los Angeles International Airport, said later that they appreciated seeing news reports on what was happening. Others were horrified.

“It was absolutely terrifying, actually. Seeing the events broadcast made it completely surreal and detached me from the event,” said Zachary Mastoon, a musician heading home on the Burbank-to-New York flight. “It became this television show I was inextricably linked to. It was no longer my situation, it was broadcast for everyone to see. It only exacerbated the situation and my fear.”

 

WASHINGTON

Katrina caused loss of more than 200k jobs

More than 200,000 people have lost their jobs because of Hurricane Katrina, and more bad economic news is on the horizon as Hurricane Rita heads for the Texas Gulf Coast and the country’s biggest collection of oil refineries.

Even a glancing blow could send energy prices higher than their record peak right after Katrina. And if Rita’s damage to Texas refineries is severe enough, economists say, gasoline could top $5 per gallon.

“Some 20 percent of the nation’s refining capacity seems to be right in Rita’s path. If that gets disrupted at all, then gasoline, jet fuel, natural gas and home heating oil will surge higher,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Economy.com.

 

ATLANTA

Delta to cut costs after filing for bankruptcy

A mere eight days after filing for bankruptcy protection, Delta Air Lines Inc. signaled yesterday it wants to move quickly to reduce costs as it announced it will eliminate up to 9,000 more jobs, slash pay for executives and other employees and cut domestic capacity while adding more international flying.

The changes were not a surprise but the speed in putting them forth was, said airline analyst Ray Neidl at Calyon Securities.

“It shows that they’re determined to turn this airline around,” Neidl said.

That won’t happen without pain for many employees who stuck with the nation’s third-biggest carrier through nearly $10 billion in losses and earlier rounds of cuts that shed 24,000 jobs since 2001.

 

 

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