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By United Press International   |   Dec. 21, 2001 at 4:45 AM   |   Comments

JOHN WALKER

The fate of American Taliban fighter John Walker remains up in the air.

Backing away from earlier statements that an announcement on how the U.S. government plans to deal with Walker could come at any time, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters Thursday that no decision was imminent. He said President Bush continued to get recommendations from advisers in the Defense and Justice Departments.

Walker, 20, whose parents live in Northern California, was among a group of fighters who surrendered last week after an uprising of Taliban prisoners in a fort outside Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. A CIA operative was killed during the battle and five special operation soldiers were injured by friendly fire.

Walker is being held aboard the USS Peleliu off Pakistan, where he was receiving medical treatment for a leg wound.

Speculation has swirled about what will happen to Walker, who has been seen in TV video footage appearing thin, with long, dark straggly hair and a dirt-covered face. Legal experts say Walker could face charges as serious as treason, or he could become a government witness against al Qaida, the Islamic extremist group that Washington blames for the terrorist attacks against Washington and New York on Sept. 11. Some 3,000 people died in those attacks.

Should Walker be convicted on lesser charges of providing material support to the Taliban or members of al Qaida, he could face a 15-year prison term, the Justice Department said, or life in prison if it is proved that loss of life occurred as a result of his actions.

Bush said during a television interview earlier this month that a decision would have to wait until all the facts of Walker's involvement with Afghanistan's Taliban regime were in, but added that the man, who had originally traveled to the region to study Islam and Arabic, had been "obviously misled."

-- What do you think should happen to Walker?


DAYTIME RUNNING LIGHTS

General Motors Corp. is asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require automakers to equip all new cars, trucks and buses sold in the United States with daytime running lamps. The world's largest automaker filed a petition at NHTSA offices in Washington asking the federal government to mandate daytime running lights on all passenger vehicles.

A government study released last year found daytime running lights reduced the number of pedestrians hit by single vehicles by 28 percent.

Daytime running lights that automatically illuminate when a vehicle is started are already standard equipment on Toyota, Volkswagen and BMW vehicles and are mandatory on vehicles sold in Canada and several countries in Europe.

"We have overwhelming evidence that daytime running lamps reduce crashes, thereby potentially saving lives and preventing thousands of injuries," said Robert Lange, GM's executive director of structure and safety integration. "DRLs are clearly one of the most cost-effective crash-avoidance features on the road today."

An independent study last year said daytime multi-vehicle, non-rear-end collisions involving GM vehicles had fallen more than 5 percent since General Motors began equipping cars with daytime running lamps six years ago. More than 25 million GM light-duty vehicles have been sold equipped with daytime running lights since then.

Daytime running lights have reduced daytime vehicle-pedestrian crashes in urban areas by about 9 percent, Lange said. "We believe every new light-duty (vehicle) sold in the U.S. should be equipped with daytime running lamps so that these very apparent and documented safety benefits will be extended to everyone."

-- Do you agree? Why or why not?


FAVORITE MOVIE STARS

Julia Roberts is No. 1 in a new Harris poll of America's favorite movie stars. It's the first time in the 11-year history of the poll that a woman finished at the top of the list.

The Oscar-winning star of "Erin Brockovich" and "Pretty Woman" finished ahead of Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson and Sean Connery. She finished first among women polled and among Latinos, and tied for first with Ford among those age 18-29.

Denzel Washington ("Training Day," "Remember the Titans") finished eighth overall, but he was tops among blacks responding to the poll.

-- Who's your favorite movie star, and why?

(Thanks to UPI Hollywood Reporter Pat Nason)

© 2001 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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