Al-Jazeera broadcasts alleged tape of hostages

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Al-Jazeera satellite channel aired a tape Wednesday that purported to show three Romanian journalists kidnapped in Iraq and a fourth unidentified person, possibly an American. The station said the four were held by an unnamed militant group and no demands were made. The U.S. State Department said Wednesday that a U.S. citizen was taken hostage with the three Romanians. However, the department gave no further information, so there was no way of confirming if the American was also on the video.

Bush pushes for private retirement accounts

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- The more President Bush stumps for restructuring Social Security, the less popular his own plan seems to become. His poll ratings are dropping, too, but Bush says he is not deterred. "I'm going to be stubborn. And we're going to keep working this," Bush told a supportive audience Wednesday at a community college here. Barnstorming on behalf of a presidential proposal is a time-honored technique to build grass-roots support. Bush used the strategy successfully in his first term for his tax cuts and for a Medicare prescription drug benefit. Although polls show that Bush is helping to raise public awareness of what Social Security's financial plight will be once he and other baby boomers start retiring, the same polls show support for individual investment accounts is lower now than when he proposed them in his State of the Union address two months ago.

Study: Aspirin may help blocked arteries in brain

People at risk of developing strokes caused by narrowed arteries in the brain should consider aspirin instead of a common anti-clotting drug, new research suggests. Aspirin worked just as well as warfarin in stroke patients with narrowed brain arteries, according to a study of 569 people at more than 50 sites across North America. But those on warfarin, which is marketed as Coumadin, suffered a higher death rate and more major bleeding compared to those who took aspirin. Results appear in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

Report raises hopes for better job climate

WASHINGTON -- The economy closed out 2004 with decent momentum and appears to have picked up some speed since then, raising hopes of a better climate for jobs. With the economy chugging ahead -- but not too rapidly -- Wall Street staged a jubilant rally. The broadest barometer of economic health, the gross domestic product, advanced at an annual rate of 3.8 percent over the final three months of last year, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

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