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Briefs (right)

In New York, Wireless Web
Comes to Parks

By Sewell Chan
THE NEW YORK TIMES NEW YORK

By the end of August, wireless networks will be established at 18 locations in 10 of New York City’s most prominent parks — including Central, Prospect and Riverside Parks — in a major citywide expansion of free Internet access, according to city officials.

The development, to be announced Thursday, would end months of delay for a city project that has faced considerable logistical and technical hurdles since it was announced in June 2003. Wi-Fi Salon, a small start-up company that won the contract for the work in October 2004, said Wednesday that Nokia, a Finnish manufacturer of telecommunications devices, had signed on as a sponsor.

Wi-Fi Salon intends to activate 18 wireless “hot spots” by the end of next month at Battery, Central and Riverside Parks and in Washington and Union Squares in Manhattan; at Prospect Park in Brooklyn; at the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens; and at Pelham Bay and Van Cortlandt Parks and Orchard Beach in the Bronx.

Eight of the hot spots will be in Central Park and two in Prospect Park. The first of the 18 locations — a stretch of Battery Park — is to be activated Thursday, with the othersto follow, in stages, through August.

Suicide Attack on Shiite Shrine
Kills 12 in Najaf

By Kirk Semple
THE NEW YORK TIMES BAGHDAD, IRAQ

A suicide bomber rammed his car into a group of Iranian pilgrims visiting a Shiite shrine in the city of Najaf on Thursday and blew it up, killing at least 12 people and wounding more than 40, Iraqi officials said.

At least five of the dead and 22 of the wounded were Iranians. The blast totally destroyed two buses the pilgrims had arrived in and left a crack in the outer wall of the Maitham al-Tammar shrine, the officials said.

The relations between the country’s young government and Iran is one of the touchiest of the many conflicts dividing the country’s ethnic groups.

The leading Shiite parties have close ties to Iran, a predominantly Shiite country, leading many Sunnis, who led the fight during the bloody Iraq-Iran war two decades ago, to question their loyalty. And Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has accused Iran of infiltrating members of its Revolutionary Guard forces into Iran and supplying insurgents with sophisticated bombs.

Najaf is the home of shrines considered by Shiites to be among their holiest, and is the destination of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year from Iran.

U.S. General and Ambassador

Apologize for Crime

By Edward Wong
THE NEW YORK TIMES BAGHDAD, IRAQ

The U.S. ambassador and the top American military commander here together issued an unusual apology on Thursday for the rape and murder of a young Iraqi woman and the killing of her family, saying that the crime, in which at least four soldiers are suspects, had injured the “Iraqi people as a whole.”

The statement came just hours after Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki said at a news conference that he might ask the American military to scrap a rule that grants foreign soldiers here immunity from Iraqi prosecution. Such a move would be a direct rebuke to the Bush administration, which has fought tenaciously to ensure that American soldiers are exempt from local or international laws when deployed on foreign soil.

“I’m about to talk to the multinational forces to reach solutions that will put an end to such practices,” Maliki said of criminal behavior by soldiers. One possible course of action, he said, would be to “revise the issue of immunity.”

“Our people cannot tolerate that every day there is an ugly crime such as that in Mahmoudiya,” he added, referring to the market town near which the four Iraqis, including a young girl, were killed on March 12.

3 Senators Protest Possible
Tax Deduction for Boeing

By Leslie Wayne
THE NEW YORK TIMES

Three prominent Republican senators have written to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to express concern that Boeing may be allowed to take a tax deduction for a $615 million settlement reached last week with the government.

The three senators — Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; John McCain of Arizona, a longtime critic of Boeing; and John W. Warner of Virginia, chairman of the Armed Services Committee — said in the letter that allowing Boeing to deduct payments to settle government ethics charges “would be unacceptable.”

Boeing and the Justice Department reached an agreement on June 30 in which the company agreed to pay $615 million to avoid criminal charges and settle claims arising from its improper hiring of a Pentagon official and its obtaining of proprietary documents from the Lockheed Martin Corp. relating to government rocket launchings.

Allowing the Boeing settlement to be tax deductible, the senators said in the letter, would result in “leaving the American taxpayer to effectively subsidize its misconduct.”

“We are not interested in settlements that are designed to look good in newspapers, but fail to bring real accountability,” the letter stated; a copy of the letter was obtained by The New York Times.

McCain first raised questions about Boeing’s relationship with the Pentagon a couple of years ago. Hearings he called ultimately led to the cancellation of a $23 billion deal for aerial refueling tankers between Boeing and the Air Force as well as to the ethical investigations that resulted in the $615 million settlement, one of the largest ever imposed on a military contractor.