Blair to announce partial withdrawal of troops from Iraq

Prime Minister Tony Blair will announce today a new timetable for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq, with 1,500 to return home in several weeks, the BBC reported.

Blair will also tell the House of Commons during his regular weekly appearance before it that a total of about 3,000 British soldiers will have left southern Iraq by the end of 2007, if the security there is sufficient, the British Broadcasting Corp. said, quoting government officials who weren’t further identified.

The BBC said Blair was not expected to say when the rest of Britain’s forces would leave Iraq. Currently, Britain has about 7,100 soldiers there.

State to close major prison in Jackson

The state plans to close a 1,500-inmate prison in Jackson by July to save money and help balance the state budget, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections said yesterday.

The Southern Michigan Correctional Facility – one of five prisons in Jackson – will close, corrections spokesman Russ Marlan told The Associated Press. Nearly 7,800 inmates are incarcerated in Jackson overall – 15 percent of Michigan’s prisoner population.

The prison closing likely won’t be the only one, as Gov. Jennifer Granholm plans to parole 5,000 more prisoners in the next budget year to cut costs.

It costs $35 million a year to run the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility.

The state also plans to close the Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center Annex in Jackson, which serves as an intake point for male prisoners before they’re housed elsewhere.

New Jersey begins issuing civil unions

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that foreign-born prisoners seized as potential terrorists and held in Guantanamo Bay may not challenge their detention in U.S. courts, a key victory for President Bush’s anti-terrorism plan.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 that civilian courts no longer have the authority to consider whether the military is illegally holding the prisoners – a decision that will strip court access for hundreds of detainees with cases currently pending.

Barring federal court access was a key provision in the Military Commissions Act, which Bush pushed through Congress last year to set up a system run by the Defense Department to prosecute terrorism suspects.

Attorneys for the detainees immediately said they would appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, which last year struck down the Bush administration’s original plan for trying detainees before military commissions.

Australians phase out incandescent light bulbs

The Australian government announced plans to phase out incandescent light bulbs and replace them with more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs across the country.

Legislation to gradually restrict the sale of the old-style bulbs could reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by four million tonnes by 2012 and cut household power bills by up to 66 per cent, said Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Under the Australian plan, bulbs that do not comply with energy efficiency targets would be gradually banned from sale. Exemptions may apply for special needs such as medical lighting and oven lights.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

Notable Number

Number of convenience stores robbed by two men in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware by throwing coffee or hot chocolate in the clerk’s face and then stealing money from the cash register, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. The thieves, who usually strike in the early morning, are still at large. 7-Eleven and Wawa stores are offering a $10,000 reward for information about the men.

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