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U.S. Military to Close Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq

By Robert F. Worth

The American military will close Abu Ghraib, the prison west of Baghdad that became notorious after revelations of abuses by American guards there in 2004, a spokesman said Thursday.

A military spokesman, Lt. Col. Keir-Kevin Curry, said that operations will be transferred to a new prison facility at Camp Cropper, once construction is completed there. “The plan is to accomplish this within the next three months,” he said.

Curry said the detainee population at Abu Ghraib was 4,537.

Camp Cropper, at the Baghdad airport, now holds 140 prisoners, including dozens who have been termed high-value detainees, including Saddam Hussein.

Even though American military prisons have been overcrowded, Maj. Gen. John D. Gardner of the Army said in December that no facilities or prisoners now held by American forces would be turned over to the Iraqi government until worries about mistreatment had been laid to rest.

The Army has spent $50 million on the latest round of prison expansions. In December, the number of violent detainees held in American prisons had grown to 14,000. The largest prison, Camp Bucca in the country’s south, holds about 8,000 detainees.

U.S. Trade Deficit Increased
To $68.5 Billion in January

By Vikas Bajaj

The nation’s trade deficit widened to another record in January, the government reported Thursday, as the strengthening American economy attracted a surge of imported cars, household goods and petroleum products.

Americans imported $68.5 billion more in goods and services than they exported at the start of the year, up 5.3 percent from December, the Commerce Department said; it was the largest deficit since October, when the gap swelled to $67.8 billion.

A 3.5 percent jump in imports in January appear to reflect the sharply higher consumer spending during the month and rising price of oil, gasoline and other energy products. Automobile and car parts imports increased 5.3 percent during the month and the country spent 4.3 percent more on petroleum-based imports.

Exports were up 2.5 percent from December, with soybean shipments doubling and airplane sales up 44 percent. But sales of most other American goods and services changed only modestly in January.

Arbitrator to Decide Awards
In Boston Church Abuse Cases

By Pam Belluck

A second group of plaintiffs who say they were abused by priests in Boston has reached a settlement with the archdiocese here, agreeing to allow an arbitrator to determine the monetary award they will receive.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and lawyers for the plaintiffs said all 88 plaintiffs who were offered the settlement in December had signed the agreement and would be awarded $5,000 to $200,000 in arbitration hearings to begin this month. The average award will be $75,000, the lawyers and the archdiocese said.

“This is an important first step in resolving pending claims of sexual abuse of children by priests of the Archdiocese of Boston,” said Kelly Lynch, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese. “We’re very pleased at the response the settlement offers generated.”