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Briefs (right)

Bush Plays Down
Differences With Baghdad

By Sheryl Gay Stolberg
THE NEW YORK TIMES WASHINGTON

President Bush on Monday reassured Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq that he would not set a timetable for withdrawal of troops and would continue to support the prime minister, despite recent reports that military generals and some Republican lawmakers are dissatisfied with the Iraqi government’s performance.

At the same time, the White House suggested Monday that it would not necessarily accept the recommendations of an independent commission reviewing Iraq policy. “We’re not going to outsource the business of handling the war in Iraq,” said Bush’s press secretary, Tony Snow.

The president’s remarks to al-Maliki came during a 15-minute telephone conversation between the leaders, Snow said. During the call, initiated by Bush, the Iraqi prime minister expressed concern about news reports that there would be an attempt to replace him if he was unable to assert control over Iraq within two months, Snow said.

“There was a rumor that there were going to be attempts to replace him if certain things don’t happen in two months,” Snow said. “And the president said: The rumors are not true; we support you.”

Al-Maliki, he said, “assured the president that he is and will continue making tough decisions” to get rid of militias that are responsible for sectarian violence in Iraq.

Disney Toons Will Shun
Junk Food Endorsements

By Landon Thomas Jr.
THE NEW YORK TIMES

Buzz Lightyear and Lightning McQueen will not be endorsing junk food much longer.

Walt Disney, addressing the growing concerns of parents over child nutrition, said Monday that it would curtail the use of its name and characters with food items that did not meet new nutritional standards. The new guidelines would limit how much sugar, calories and fat could be in snacks and foods marketed by companies that Disney has licensing relationships with.

The move, which comes at a time of mounting worry about childhood obesity, is likely to put pressure on the company’s competitors to follow suit. Left outside the scope of Monday’s initiative was any mention of the considerable advertising for junk food products that is carried on Disney’s television networks, especially Toon Disney and ABC Kids.

But the policy change was broadly hailed by food industry experts, who saw it as an important statement in the increasingly vocal debate over what parents want their children to eat and what the food companies are trying to sell to them.

“I think this is very significant,” said Margo G. Wootan, the nutrition policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group in Washington. “Disney characters will not show up on Pop-Tarts, waffles and fruit snacks. This will allow parents to feed their children more healthfully.”

The Islands Survey Damage
From Earthquakes

By Janis L. Magin
THE NEW YORK TIMES

Most of the Hawaiian Islands returned to normal Monday as state and local officials got their first look at the damage to roads, bridges and buildings caused by a strong earthquake on Sunday.

The early morning quake was centered off the Kohala Coast on the western shore of Hawaii Island, known as the Big Island, where the most damage was immediately apparent. There were no deaths, and the most serious injuries reported were broken bones.

The U.S. Geological Survey said that the main quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 and that there had been at least a dozen aftershocks, including one that measured 5.8. The quake and its aftershocks initially set off fears of a tsunami, but the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center on Oahu said no tsunami was expected because the quake was too deep underground.

Gov. Linda Lingle issued a disaster declaration hours after the quake, and state officials were awaiting word from the White House about a presidential declaration.

On Oahu, where more than three-quarters of the state’s 1.2 million people live, little damage was reported, but most of the island was without power for more than 12 hours. By Monday morning, all but a handful of communities on the island’s Waianae Coast had electricity and rush-hour traffic was normal as people headed back to work and school. Only the private Kamehameha Schools were closed.

Wal-Mart Said to Acquire
Big Chain in China

By David Barboza
and Michael Barbaro
THE NEW YORK TIMES SHANGHAI, CHINA

Wal-Mart Stores, the largest retailer in the United States, is poised to become the biggest foreign chain in China with the $1 billion purchase of a major foreign-run retailer here, according to people briefed on the deal.

The move represents a large step for Wal-Mart’s strategy in China, allowing the American retailer to more than double its presence in a country that, despite its size and growing middle class, remains largely untapped by foreign retailers.

Though the size of the acquisition — of a Taiwanese-owned supermarket chain called Trust-Mart — may be modest for Wal-Mart, it is a critical one because the China market is becoming much more pivotal in the retailer’s overall international strategy. For Wal-Mart, China represents an opportunity to tap a vast and fast-growing market abroad at a time when Wal-Mart is lagging elsewhere and has run into obstacles to growth at home.

“China is the only country in the world that offers Wal-Mart the chance to replicate what they have accomplished in the U.S.,” said Bill Dreher, an analyst at Deutsche Bank Securities.

Wal-Mart expects to close its acquisition of Trust-Mart by year end, but the deal still requires approval by Chinese authorities, according to a person briefed on the transaction.