News briefs for Dec. 5

Published 11:51 pm Thursday, December 4, 2008

Congress skeptical about aid plan

WASHINGTON – U.S. automakers drew fresh skepticism from lawmakers Thursday in a rocky confrontation over their pleas for an expanded $34 billion rescue package they say they need to survive. Congressional analysts said one bailout plan under consideration would fall short of what the carmakers want.

With time on the current Congress running out, opposition to the bailout appeared to be as strong as last week — before Detroit’s Big Three auto chiefs returned to Capitol Hill with more detailed plans on how they would spend the money.

US may use drug law provision in Blackwater case

WASHINGTON – Blackwater Worldwide guards involved in the deadly 2007 Baghdad shooting of Iraqi civilians could face mandatory 30-year prison sentences under an aggressive anti-drug law being considered as the Justice Department readies indictments, people close to the case said.

Charges could be announced as early as Monday for the shooting, which left 17 civilians dead and strained U.S. relations with the fledgling Iraqi government. Prosecutors have been reviewing a draft indictment and considering manslaughter and assault charges for weeks. A team of prosecutors returned to the grand jury room Thursday and called no witnesses.

Suicide bombers kill 17, including 2 US soldiers in Iraq

BAGHDAD — Suicide bombers killed 17 people — including two American soldiers — and wounded more than 100 in a string of blasts in two Iraqi cities Thursday as a timetable for withdrawing all U.S. troops won final government approval.

The brazen attacks in areas where the U.S. military has struggled for years to maintain order raised questions about Iraq’s ability to ensure its own security as the U.S. scales down its own combat role under the newly ratified U.S.-Iraqi security pact, which calls for an American withdrawal within three years.

Ex-guardian charged with torturing 17-year-old

STOCKTON, Calif. — A California couple has been charged with kidnapping and torturing a 17-year-old boy police say they sometimes kept shackled in their home.

The boy’s one-time guardian, who also stayed in the couple’s home with the teenager, was also charged with similar abuse allegations.

Kelly Layne Lau and her husband, Michael Schumacher, both of Tracy, are charged with 13 counts related to the alleged abuse. The former guardian, Caren Ramirez, is charged with 10 counts.

–The Associated Press