Washington
Lawmaker says CIA told official not to destroy tapes

The CIA official who gave the command to destroy interrogation videotapes apparently acted against the direction of his superiors, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee said yesterday.

“It appears he hadn’t gotten authority from anyone,” said Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Holland), speaking to reporters after the first day of closed testimony in the committee’s investigation. “It appears he got direction to make sure the tapes were not destroyed.”

Hoekstra said that raises the troubling prospect that there’s a thread of unaccountability in the spy culture.

“I believe there are parts of the intelligence community that don’t believe they are accountable to Congress and may not be accountable to their own superiors in the intelligence community, and that’s why it’s a problem,” he said.

Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt
Egypt supports Bush peace plan

President Bush’s fast-track plan for a Mideast peace agreement got a welcome endorsement yesterday from a nation long seen as a key Arab mediator. Bush responded by pulling his punches on the human rights backpedaling in Egypt that has cooled relations with this longtime ally.

The president closed an eight-day Mideast trip well-fed from several lingering meals with his Arab hosts and upbeat about what even some of America’s closest allies say is an unexpected and ambitious drive. An Israeli-Palestinian agreement has eluded U.S. presidents for decades, and Bush didn’t put much effort into trying for the first seven years of his presidency.

Bush had a message for skeptical Arab states whose help he needs to make any accord stick and who doubt the president’s intention to personally shepherd a deal. “I mean what I’m saying,” Bush said.

HavanaCastro too sick to campaign

Fidel Castro said yesterday he is not yet healthy enough to address Cuba’s people in person and can’t campaign for Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

“I am not physically able to speak directly to the citizens of the municipality where I was nominated for our elections,” the ailing 81-year-old wrote in an essay published by state news media.

Hours later, government television broadcast images of a frail but upbeat Castro meeting Brazil’s visiting President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Tuesday.

The first video of Castro in three months showed him sitting and listening intently with a finger pressed to his forehead, then later standing and speaking, waving a finger for emphasis.

Lansing
Unemployment rate inches higher

Michigan’s unemployment rate increased to 7.6 percent in December.

Michigan had the nation’s highest unemployment rate for much of 2007. Many analysts expect the jobless rate to rise above 8 percent this year as the state’s economy continues to struggle.

The national unemployment rate in December was 5 percent.

Michigan’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.4 percent in November. The rate has been roughly in the same range since August.

Jobs were lost last month in manufacturing. Jobs were added in several service sectors, including health and education.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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