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May 15, 2009 at 11:59 AM
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Consumer prices show sharp annual decline

WASHINGTON, May 15 (UPI) -- The Consumer Price Index dropped further from April 2008 to April 2009 than in any 12-month period since 1955, the U.S. Labor Department said Friday.

Prices dropped 0.7 percent during the period but were unchanged compared to March, suggesting the a period of deflation was unlikely.

The price index was heavily influenced by food and energy price fluctuations while core prices remained relatively stable.

Compared to a year ago, energy prices have dropped 25.2 percent, the report said. Indexes for motor fuel, natural gas and electricity all fell in April, and food prices fell 0.2 percent.

In April, energy prices dropped 2.4 percent. In March, they dropped 3 percent.

The price index for food consumed at home fell 0.6 percent for the month, although restaurant prices increased. In the past 12 months food prices have risen 3.3 percent.

In April, the housing prices index fell 0.1 percent, transportation prices fell 0.4 percent and medical prices rose 0.4 percent following a 0.2 percent increase in March.


GM to close 1,100 dealerships

DETROIT, May 15 (UPI) -- U.S. auto giant General Motors Corp. said Friday it would severe ties with 1,100 car dealerships, a day after Chrysler cut 789 outlets.

Susan Garontakos, spokeswoman for GM, the largest U.S. automaker, said the dealerships would have until October 2010 to close. But many are expected to close this year, CNNMoney.com reported.

GM will pare down to 3,600 active dealerships, a 40 percent total reduction.

Analysts said the move could push GM into a legal corner that makes bankruptcy inevitable. Closing dealerships without declaring bankruptcy could lead to legal clashes with the outlets that were forced to close, CBS News reported.

About 600 of the dealerships to be cut sold primarily Pontiac, Saab, Hummer or Saturn brands, which the company expects to close out or sell, CNNMoney.com said.

Even before the announcement, about 300 GM dealerships closed this year due to a prolonged sales slump that has crippled the automotive industry.

GM, which has accepted $15.4 billion in federal loans, has until June 1 to trim its debt and find union concessions to qualify for more federal assistance. It has already said it would close 16 factories this year and lay off 27,000 workers.


Holder: Dangerous detainees won't be freed

WASHINGTON, May 15 (UPI) -- The Justice Department won't release detainees considered dangerous to the United States, Attorney General Eric Holder told a Senate panel.

Holder, speaking Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee, said no final determination has been made about fate of the 241 men detained at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, military prison, The Washington Post reported Friday.

"We're not going to do anything, anything that would put the American people at risk -- nothing," Holder said.

Discussions about what happens to the detainees have picked up recently as the Obama administration's January deadline to close the detention facility and relocate its prisoners draws closer.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the panel's ranking Republican, demanded that the Justice Department share information about the risks posed by the detainees before any of them are moved.

Holder also was questioned about whether he would prosecute CIA agents, Justice Department lawyers or Bush administration officials for their roles in developing an interrogation program critics say violated international treaties and anti-torture statutes.

The attorney general said CIA employees who conducted interrogations based on advice from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel would not face criminal prosecutions, but he did not rule out the possibility of other cases.

"We would allow the law and the facts to take us wherever that was appropriate, and so as ... facts become more evident, those are the kinds of things that obviously would go into that determination," he said.


Ex-govt. worker wants rendition immunity

WASHINGTON, May 15 (UPI) -- A former U.S. government employee accused by Italy of participating in a CIA kidnapping, has sued the U.S. State Department, demanding diplomatic immunity.

Italian officials claim Sabrina De Sousa was one of 26 U.S agents who grabbed Egyptian-born Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, a cleric known as Abu Omar, in February 2003 and flew him to Egypt, where he says he was imprisoned and tortured, The Washington Post said Friday. Nasr has since been released.

De Sousa, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in India, said she was ordered not to travel abroad because she could be arrested, preventing her from visiting her mother in India and family members in Europe. De Sousa left federal employment in February.

Italian officials allege the Nasr's disappearance was part of a CIA rendition program in which the agency abducted suspected terrorists and took them to third countries for interrogation. De Sousa, accused of being a principal in the incident, worked as a consular official in Milan at the time.

"Even if the allegations were true, though, her actions clearly fell within the scope of her official duties and thereby entitle her to diplomatic-consular immunity," the lawsuit said.

De Sousa told the Post she was forced to sue after asking government officials repeatedly why diplomatic immunity wasn't invoked and didn't get a satisfactory response.

"This is a political thing that needs to go away once and for all," she said of the prosecution.

De Sousa and the other 25 U.S. officials arrested in the alleged kidnapping were indicted in Italy in 2007. A hearing is set for this month.


Suu Kyi's trespasser on spiritual quest

YANGON, Myanmar, May 15 (UPI) -- A U.S. Vietnam veteran imprisoned for trespassing at the Myanmar home of Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was on a spiritual quest, his wife says.

Betty Yettaw of Missouri says it wasn't the first time her husband, John William Yettaw, 53, visited Suu Kyi.

"He probably thought he would be in and out and no one would know, because that's what happened before," Yettaw told The Daily Telegraph. "He just wanted to get some comments from her."

Instead, he was arrested as he swam away from the house wearing a pair of flippers he had fashioned from a pair of sandals and some wood.

Already psychologically scarred by the Vietnam War, Yettaw was tipped over the edge by the death of his teenage son two years ago, the Telegraph reported Friday.

His intrusion prompted Myanmar's ruling generals to transfer Suu Kyi to Yangon's notorious Insein prison.

Yettaw faces five years in prison for entering a restricted zone and one year for immigration offensives.

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