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The week in review
Scripps Howard News Service


January 05, 2007
Friday PM

Democrats retake Capitol Hill

Ending a dozen years in the political wilderness, Democrats regained control of both houses of Congress this week. San Francisco Democrat Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as the nation's first female House speaker Thursday, the most powerful political post ever held by a woman in the United States. "We have made history, now let us make progress for the American people," she said. Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid became Senate majority leader. "The voters want change. Together, we must deliver that change," Reid told his colleagues. Democrats in both houses promised improved bipartisanship with Republicans.

Bush reshuffles national security leadership

President Bush, who is considering an escalation in the numbers of U.S. troops in Iraq, Friday began reshuffling his national security team. He nominated former National Security Agency Director Mike McConnell to be national intelligence director, replacing John Negroponte, who was nominated to be deputy secretary of state. The president is also expected soon to announce replacements for Gen. George Casey, top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and Gen. John Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command, according to published reports.

First Muslim sworn into Congress

Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison was sworn in Thursday as the first Muslim member of the House of Representatives, taking the oath of office with his hand on a copy of the Quran once owned by President Thomas Jefferson. Officials at the Library of Congress agreed to Ellison's request that he briefly borrow the two-volume set for the ceremony. Some conservatives expressed outrage that the oath was not taken using a Christian Bible. Ellison said he wants to put the controversy behind him. "It was good, we did it, it's over. Now it's time to get down to business," he said.

Gerald Ford buried with full honors

Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States, was buried in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich., Wednesday after receiving a state funeral at the Washington National Cathedral Tuesday. "In President Ford, the world saw the best of America and America found a man whose character and leadership would bring calm and healing to one of the most divisive moments in our nation's history," President Bush said in his eulogy. Thousands braved cold temperatures to attend visitations in Washington and Grand Rapids before the interment on a picturesque hillside. Ford died at age 93 on Dec. 26.

Iraq reports 12,000 civilian deaths last year

Iraqi officials issued a grim report Tuesday that more than 12,000 civilians were killed in sectarian violence last year, three years since the U.S.-led occupation. There was a dramatic increase in the killings during the last three months when 5,000 died. A total of 1,539 Iraqi security forces were killed, nearly double the 823 U.S. troops who died last year. The number of civilian deaths in Iraq is under dispute. An estimate by the United Nations has a much higher toll, but has been discounted by Iraqi officials.

Jobs unexpectedly surged last month

The number of U.S. jobs unexpectedly leaped to 167,000 in December, the Labor Department reported Friday, with brisk growth in wages and unemployment holding steady at 4.5 percent. The good news easily surpassed analysts' forecasts. For all of 2006, the nation's unemployment rate dropped to a six-year low of 4.6 percent and the economy added 1.8 million jobs. The year before, unemployment averaged 5.1 percent.

Weight loss claims bring $25 million in fines

The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday slapped $25 million in fines on marketers of four weight loss pills that falsely reported scientific evidence supporting claims of rapid weight loss and miraculous reductions in cancer risks. "The marketers are required to back up the claims with the science and if they can't do that they can't make the claim," said FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras. "But we don't ban the products from the shelves." The fines were levied against marketers of One A Day Weight Smart, TrimSpa, Xenadrine EFX, and CortiSlim.

Spokane Catholic Diocese to pay $48 million

The Spokane, Wash., Catholic Diocese agreed Thursday to pay at least $48 million to parishioners molested by priests in a plan that will allow the church to emerge from bankruptcy. Federal Bankruptcy Judge Gregg Zive in Reno, Nev., said the settlement would give victims "some measure of closure and allow them to move forward and continue the healing process." Nearly half of the money will come from insurance carriers, the rest from diocesan assets, including the sale of an office building worth $18 million.

Duke invites return of two indicted lacrosse players

Duke University officials announced Wednesday that two lacrosse players charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting a stripper may return to school while awaiting trial. Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann are also eligible to rejoin the team. "As circumstances have evolved in this extraordinary case, we have attempted to balance recognition of the gravity of legal charges with the presumption of your innocence," Larry Moneta, Duke's vice president for student affairs, said in a letter. A third player charged in the case, Dave Evans, already graduated. Rape charges against the three were dropped last month.

Home Depot chief resigns after salary criticism

Home Depot chairman and chief executive Bob Nardelli resigned Wednesday following protracted complaints of his lavish salary. During his first five years at Home Depot, Nardelli earned $123.7 million in salary not counting stock option grants. But Nardelli did not leave with empty pockets. His severance package was worth an additional $210 million.

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Ketchikan, Alaska