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Giuliani and McCain Plan to Skip GOP Straw Poll in Iowa

Bucking a ritual for Republican presidential candidates, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sen. John McCain announced Wednesday that they would not participate in what has been a significant early test of candidate strength, the straw poll in Ames, Iowa, this August.

Their decision was the clearest indication of how much the changing primary calendar is up-ending presidential politics this year, as candidates grapple with the prospect of huge primaries in crucial states like Florida on Jan. 29 and California, New York and Texas a week later.

Both campaigns said they would still compete in the Iowa caucuses, scheduled for January. But the Giuliani campaign cited the high cost of participating in the poll, which they estimated at $3 million, as the reason for pulling out. Hours later, the McCain campaign followed suit, raising the prospect that the event would lose its importance in the nomination process.

"This type of campaign has never been waged before," said Michael DuHaime, the Giuliani campaign manager. DuHaime said the need to spend in states like Florida and California was forcing the campaign to make tough choices about where to allocate resources.

Palestinians Delay Talks On Tax Transfers From Israel

A meeting scheduled for Thursday between the prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has been postponed largely over what appeared to be the issue of the conditions under which Israel would turn over tax revenues it collects for the Palestinians.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said in a telephone interview from Ramallah that the delay had been requested by the Palestinians because "the preparations for it have not been completed," adding, "Both sides have an overload of internal and external complexities to deal with."

But he also made clear that the Palestinians wanted a meeting that would yield tangible results. "We stressed that we need some of the tax revenues, which Israel is withholding, released," he said, referring to customs and tax funds collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. He added that the Israelis "are still not coming our way on the tax issue."

Gunmen Kill Female Journalist In Northern Afghanistan

An Afghan journalist was shot dead by unknown gunmen in her home north of Kabul Tuesday night as she slept beside her 10-month- old baby, Afghan officials said on Wednesday.

The journalist, Zakia Zaki, 38, was the director of a private local radio station in Jabal-us-Siraj, an hour's drive north of the capital, Kabul. She was shot seven times, said Abdul Jabar Taqwa, the governor of Parwan province. The baby survived.

Zaki, the mother of six children, had been receiving threats for the last few months demanding that she take the station off the air, Taqwa said. The nature of the threats was unclear, but she had been involved in women's rights advocacy and political activity.

Zaki was killed just six days after a television reporter and anchorwoman on a private television station in Kabul was shot and killed in her house.

When the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan in 2001, barring women from education and work outside their houses, Zaki's was the only woman's voice that could be heard near Kabul, on the station Radio-Solh, or Peace Radio.