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Attacks in Mosul and Karbala Kill 13

A spate of attacks on Thursday, including the assassination of a Sunni Arab political leader in the violent northern city of Mosul, killed at least 13 Iraqis and left 39 wounded, security officials said.

The politician, Abdul-Karim al-Sharabi, was one of five Sunni leaders to be killed since Dec. 31 in or near Mosul, where tensions between Arabs and Kurds are high and Sunni insurgents remain firmly entrenched.

The deadliest attack on Thursday took place in Karbala, the holy Shiite city south of Baghdad, where tens of thousands of pilgrims have been massing to commemorate Arbaeen, which marks the end of the mourning period for Imam Hussein, grandson of the prophet Muhammad.

A bomb inside a propane gas canister exploded on a pedestrian-only road teeming with pilgrims not far from Imam Hussein’s shrine, killing at least eight people and wounding 35, according to an Interior Ministry official in Baghdad who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

China Arrests 12 People After Fire at TV Tower

In a spate of arrests announced Thursday, Beijing officials put the blame for a Monday fire that destroyed part of the government’s spectacular new media complex squarely on the shoulders of the state-run television network.

The police detained 12 people, including the chief of construction for the new headquarters of China Central Television, or CCTV, and eight employees of the firm the broadcaster hired to put on an illegal fireworks show that the authorities said ignited the blaze.

The fire gutted a nearly completed 520-foot-high futuristic skyscraper that was part of CCTV’s new $1.1 billion headquarters, sometimes described as an architectural symbol of China’s rising power. One firefighter died, and seven people were injured.

Many questions remain about the fire, including how fireworks could have ignited such an inferno and why the flames seemed to spread unchecked through a modern tower, designed by a world-renowned architect, that would presumably have been outfitted with state-of-the-art fire retardant systems.

Lawmakers Move Quickly On Stimulus Vote

Congressional leaders moved swiftly on Thursday to schedule votes in the House and Senate on the $789 billion economic stimulus plan while lawmakers spent much of the day hammering out the final details of the legislation.

Even as clerks were still drafting the measure, a broad array of industries and interest groups scrambled to calculate winners and losers in the final stimulus deal and in some cases engaged in fierce, down-to-the-wire lobbying efforts for further adjustments.

On some issues there was confusion among top White House and congressional officials over whether certain provisions were included in the bill — an embarrassment for House Democrats who had promised at least 48 hours of public review before a vote.

Among the last-minute changes on Thursday was a slight expansion of a tax break for businesses favored by Senate Republicans who provided crucial votes for the bill. The provision lets companies claim refunds by applying current losses to prior profitable years.

Another late insertion was a $3.2 billion tax break specifically intended for General Motors that allows it to claim refunds for taxes paid in earlier, profitable years.