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Iraq Invokes Death Penalty For 28 Cultists in Attacks

Twenty-eight members of a Shiite messianic cult responsible for brutal attacks on Shiite pilgrims in Iraq were sentenced to death on Thursday, said an official from the federal court in Dhi Qar province.

The condemned were members of the Followers of the Mahdi, itself a part of the Soldiers of Heaven, a fringe cult that believes that sowing chaos will pave the way for the coming of the Mahdi, the 12th Imam, who disappeared in the ninth century, and who Shiites believe will return as a savior of humanity.

Nineteen other members of the group were sentenced to life imprisonment, and six were acquitted, said the court official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The Soldiers of Heaven have fought Iraqi and U.S. security forces in a series of clashes. None have been more brutal, or bizarre, than a battle in January 2007 on the outskirts of the holy Shiite city of Najaf, where an estimated 1,000 cult members entrenched themselves with plans to overthrow the city’s Shiite clerical leadership.

Obama Proposes Sharp Changes In $3.5 Trillion Budget

President Obama, proclaiming a “once in a generation” opportunity, proposed a 10-year budget on Thursday that reflects his determination in the face of recession to invest trillions of dollars and his own political capital in reshaping the nation’s priorities.

He would overhaul health care, arrest global warming, expand the federal role in education and shift more costs to the wealthiest taxpayers and corporations.

In a veiled jibe at the Bush years, Obama said his budget breaks “from a troubled past” and attributed the current economic maelstrom to “an era of profound irresponsibility that engulfed both private and public institutions from some of our largest companies’ executive suites to the seats of power in Washington, D.C.”

Without trimming his ambitious campaign promises, the president projects a fiscal 2010 budget of nearly $3.6 trillion, and a deficit for the current fiscal year of $1.75 trillion — a level not seen in six decades. He claims he would shrink annual deficits mostly through higher revenues from rich individuals and polluting industries, by reducing war costs and by assuming a rate of economic growth by 2010 that even some White House economists consider overly rosy.

Former C.I.A. Official Is Sentenced To Prison for Fraud

A former top-ranking official at the CIA was sentenced Thursday to 37 months in prison for defrauding the government by steering a clandestine contract to a military contractor who was a close friend.

Kyle D. Foggo was the executive director at the CIA from 2004 to 2006. In that position, Foggo directed the agency’s administrative operations and budget, including some of its outside contracts.

Prosecutors said Foggo used that job to ensure the award of lucrative contracts to Brent R. Wilkes, a San Diego businessman and childhood friend, who in return took Foggo on expensive vacations, paid for his meals at exclusive restaurants and offered him a job after he retired.

Foggo pleaded guilty in September to a single count of wire fraud. Under an agreement with the government, he could not be sentenced to more than 37 months, the exact prison term handed down by Judge James C. Cacheris of U.S. District Court in Alexandria, VA.