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Briefs (left)

Three Blasts Shake Hotels
Used By Foreigners in Baghdad

By Kirk Semple

Insurgents launched a triple assault in Baghdad on Monday, detonating three suicide vehicle bombs — including a cement truck packed with explosives — in quick succession at a government ministry and two prominent hotels popular with foreigners, the Iraqi government said. At least five police officers and a civilian were reported dead, and scores of people were wounded.

Though the death toll on Monday was not nearly as high as in other suicide attacks this year, the significance of the assault went beyond casualty statistics. The two high-rise hotels — the Palestine and the neighboring Sheraton — have been symbols of the foreign presence in Iraq.

Both are landmarks on the east side of the Tigris River opposite the government Green Zone, and since the 2003 invasion the hotels have housed many foreign journalists and contractors. And since then, both have been the targets of smaller attacks with rockets and mortar rounds. In the past several weeks, Iraqi and American military officials have been warning that insurgents might stage a series of spectacular attacks, particularly in attempts to disrupt the constitutional referendum on Oct. 15. But the bombings on Monday were the first major attacks against a foreign civilian target since the attacks of late 2003, in which suicide bombers destroyed the headquarters of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Storms Raised the Dead in Louisiana

By Lily Koppel

The living were not the only ones uprooted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The force of the storms literally raised the dead from their resting places in peaceful parish cemeteries, sending nearly a thousand coffins and vaults careening around the Gulf Coast and creating a macabre puzzle for coroners and morticians.

Storm surges as high as 20 feet transformed tombs, coffins and two-ton concrete vaults into virtual ships that traveled for miles before landing in front yards, fields and swamps. One barnacle-encrusted vault found underwater in a marsh is thought to contain a victim of the 1957 Hurricane Audrey.

A coffin showed up on the lawn of Dr. Bryan Bertucci, the coroner of St. Bernard Parish, and a deputy sheriff informed him that a coffin containing the deputy’s grandmother, still wearing her pink gown, had been found out of her grave in a cemetery.

“Coffins were torn out of mausoleums like a child’s blocks,” said Dr. Louis Cataldie, the state emergency medical director. “There are a lot. It is very disturbing to a lot of families who want their loved one. It is very disturbing.”

Supply of Flu Vaccine

By Gardiner Harris

Top federal health officials acknowledged Monday that there were some spot shortages of flu vaccine this year but said overall supplies should be adequate.

Some doctors and public health clinics have complained that they have limited supplies of flu vaccines this year. But Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt and other top health officials said this situation should change in the coming weeks.

“We expect that where they lack vaccines, the situation will improve,” said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “This is the same pattern that we see every year, and over time we will catch up.”

Eight states have reported some flu cases, a normal level at this point, Gerberding said. Flu season usually peaks in January and February, she said. People have many weeks to get vaccinated, she noted.