Car bombings kill 63 in first strike since crackdown

Militants struck back yesterday in their first major blow against a U.S.-led security clampdown in Baghdad with car bombings that killed at least 63 people, left scores injured and sent a grim message to officials boasting that extremist factions were on the run.

The attacks in mostly Shiite areas – twin explosions in an open-air market that claimed 62 lives and a third blast that killed one – were a sobering reminder of the challenges confronting any effort to rattle the well-armed and well-hidden insurgents.

Instead, it was the Iraqi commanders of the security sweep feeling the sting.

Just a few hours before the blasts, Lt. Gen. Abboud Qanbar led reporters on a tour of the neighborhood near the marketplace that was attacked and promised to “chase the terrorists out of Baghdad.” On Saturday, the Iraqi spokesman for the plan, Brig. Gen. Qassim Moussawi, said violence had plummeted by 80 percent in the capital.

Haddonfield, N.J.

Civil unions begin in New Jersey

New Jersey becomes the third state in the nation today to offer civil unions to same-sex couples today.

The civil unions law takes effect today and some same-sex couples are planning ceremonies. For couples who are not already in civil unions from other states, however, there is a 72-hour waiting period after applying for a license – just like with marriages. A few town halls around the state planned to open at 12:01 a.m. today so couples could file their applications.

The state Supreme Court ruled in October that New Jersey must extend all the rights of marriage to gay couples, but left it to lawmakers to decide whether to provide those rights in the form of marriages, civil unions or something else.


Senate Dems pledge new efforts to limit Iraq war

Senate Democrats pledged renewed efforts yesterday to curtail the Iraq war, suggesting they will seek to limit a 2002 measure authorizing President Bush’s use of force against Saddam Hussein.

The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the proposal had little chance of succeeding. “I think the president would veto it and the veto would be upheld,” said Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana.

A day after Republicans foiled a Democratic bid to repudiate Bush’s deployment of 21,500 additional combat troops to Iraq, Senate Democrats declined to embrace measures – being advanced in the House – that would attach conditions to additional funding for troops.


Impasse over militants slows peace summit

Hoping to turn the page on six years of stalled Mideast negotiations, the U.S. instead found itself boxed in Sunday by a characteristically complex political impasse involving ally Israel and the Palestinians.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came to the region intending to lead a symbolic peace summit. Her plans, however, have been eclipsed amid uncertainty and disagreement over how to handle last week’s sudden announcement of a power-sharing deal to end internal Palestinian fighting.

Rice met for two hours with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, resolute in his position that he must govern hand-in-hand with Hamas militants who refuse to moderate anti-Israeli policies. The United States consider Hamas a terrorist group.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

Notable Number

Hours some passengers spent waiting on JetBlue planes sitting on the tarmac at John F. Kennedy International Airport Wednesday after an ice storm forced delays. The airline was also forced to cancel hundreds of flights. The incidents have sparked calls for a congressional investigation into airline customer service.

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