BAGHDAD

2007 was deadliest year yet for U.S. military in Iraq

The U.S. military announced six new deaths yesterday, making 2007 the bloodiest year for American troops in Iraq despite a recent decline in casualties and a sharp drop in roadside bombings that Washington links to Iran.

With nearly two months left in the year, the annual toll is now 853 – three more than the previous worst of 850 in 2004.

But the grim milestone comes as the Pentagon points toward other encouraging signs as well – growing security in Baghdad and other former militant strongholds that could help consolidate the gains against extremists.

LANSING

Senate panel votes to change benefits for lawmakers

A state Senate panel voted yesterday to change health care benefits for future lawmakers when they retire.

After working six years, current lawmakers qualify to get 90 percent of their health care covered once they turn 55, which turns into supplemental coverage when they become eligible for Medicare at 65.

Bills that could be approved as early as Wednesday by the full Senate would set up a system where lawmakers elected after this year get a percentage of their health care paid for based on the number of years worked. The bills would not affect current legislators.

Future lawmakers would have to work 14 years to get the same level of coverage at 55 that current lawmakers now get in six years.

NEW YORK

Companies now able to create free pages on Facebook

Facebook has begun transforming itself from an online hangout into an online business district.

Companies can now create their own pages on Facebook for free, under a new program announced yesterday. Advertisers also will be able to show users their pitches in the guise of friends’ endorsements, based on what the friends buy and do online.

For example, if a friend has booked a vacation on Travelocity, the online travel agency will be able to display the friend’s photo as part of an ad to entice the user to buy flights and hotel stays.

BAGHLAN, Afghanistan

Bomb attack kills 28, including 5 gov’t members

A bomb attack struck a group of lawmakers yesterday as they were being greeted by children on a visit to a sugar factory in Afghanistan’s normally peaceful north. At least 28 people were killed, including five parliament members as well as children.

U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai blamed the “the enemies of peace and security,” a euphemism often used for the militant Taliban. But such a spectacular attack could also have been the work of al-Qaida. The Taliban denied involvement.

Video obtained by AP Television News of the scene just before the blast shows schoolchildren, tribal elders and government officials lining the streets to greet 18 lawmakers as they were about to enter the sugar factory in Baghlan, a town about 95 miles north of the capital, Kabul.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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