Nation briefs 1/11/06

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Woman and caretaker die in apparent suicide pact

SAN FRANCISCO -- A 106-year-old widow and her 30-year-old caretaker died together in an apparent suicide pact at the home they shared, police said. The bodies of Helen Godet and her friend and caretaker of nine years, David Lund, were found Friday along with suicide notes indicating that Lund strangled the woman after she decided she could not take her own life, Inspector Dennis Maffei said Tuesday. Lund then swallowed a fatal dose of antifreeze, authorities said. The notes were dated Dec. 27. "There are indications that it was going to be a double suicide, but she couldn't force herself to drink the poison, so he killed her and then drank the poison," Maffei said. Police were investigating the case as a murder-suicide, he said, adding that a motive was not immediately known.

President warns against criticizing Iraq policy

WASHINGTON -- President Bush, in full campaign mode, warned Democratic critics of his Iraq policy on Tuesday to watch what they say or risk giving "comfort to our adversaries" and suffering at the ballot box in November. Democrats said Bush should take his own advice. There are 10 months before congressional elections in which polls indicate the president's Republican Party could lose its dominance of Capitol Hill. But Bush is wasting no time engaging the battle. In his first speech of 2006 on the road, last week in Chicago, he aggressively challenged Democrats on the economy. Tuesday's message represented an attempt by the president to neutralize Democrats' ability to use Iraq as an election-year cudgel against Republicans. Without mentioning Democrats, the president urged campaigning politicians to "conduct this debate responsibly." He said he welcomed "honest critics" who question the way the war is being conducted and the "loyal opposition" that points out what is wrong with his administration's approach.

Seattle reaching record consecutive days of rain

SEATTLE -- After 22 consecutive days of measurable rain, Seattle is closing in on a record so dismal even forecasters in this city famous for its gray skies are complaining. With more wet weather predicted over the next several days, Seattle may soon break a record set in 1953. The city saw 33 consecutive days of measurable precipitation then -- the most since the National Weather Service office there started tracking rainfall in 1931. A trace of rain fell Dec. 18, but the real wet weather started the following day. Since October, when the weather service's "weather year" began, Seattle has had nearly 18 inches of rain.

Activists condemn decision to return Cubans

MIAMI -- Cuban-American community activists and politicians lambasted the U.S. government's decision to repatriate 15 Cubans picked up from the base of an abandoned bridge in the Florida Keys. An attorney for the families of the migrants said he planned to file a suit Tuesday asking a federal judge to allow the group to return. The migrants were sent back to Cuba Monday after U.S. officials concluded that the section of the partially collapsed bridge where they landed did not count as dry land under the government's policy because it was no longer connected to any of the Keys. Under the U.S. government's "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, Cubans who reach dry land in the United States are usually allowed to remain in this country, while those caught at sea are sent back.

Inspections of Canadian meat imports are lacking

WASHINGTON -- Two years ago, U.S. food safety officials warned that Canadian meat and poultry inspections were lacking, yet the Agriculture Department refused to stop the flow of imports from Canada, a department investigation found. Since then, 4.4 billion pounds of processed meat made its way to U.S. supermarkets and restaurants, according to a report from the department's inspector general. The Agriculture Department said Monday it had addressed problems at individual Canadian plants, some of which lost export privileges. "In no instance was public health placed at risk," said Richard Raymond, undersecretary for food safety. Meanwhile, Canada has altered its system in an attempt to comply with U.S. rules. As the leading foreign supplier of fresh and frozen red meat to the U.S., Canada shipped more than $2 billion worth in 2004, according to department reports.

-- From wire reports

Former Disney chief Eisner will be host of talk show

NEW YORK (AP) -- The former chief Mouseketeer is getting his own television show. Michael Eisner, whose 21-year run as head of the Walt Disney Co. ended last Sept. 30, will host a program on CNBC that will be seen once every two months, the network said Tuesday. "Conversations with Michael Eisner" will be an hour-long, prime-time show where Eisner speaks with business, entertainment or political leaders. His focus will be on creativity and innovation, he said.

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