Sun News Digest

SUN NEWS DIGEST

December 29, 2004

WORLD

Tsunami toll over 55,000

Thousands of bodies lay rotting and unidentified on lawns and streets of battered Sumatra island, and authorities called out bulldozers to dig mass graves, as the number killed in a mammoth earthquake and tsunami soared above 55,000, with tens of thousands still missing. [Page 1a]

Insurgents step up attacks

Insurgents accelerated their assault on Iraq's security forces, killing at least 23 policemen and a deputy governor in the Sunni-dominated zone to the north of Baghdad. The attacks were the latest by the insurgency targeting Iraqis working with the American military or the U.S.-backed government. [Page 6a]

Air of uncertainty in Ukraine

After a campaign marked by fraud and fears of violence, Ukraine's Central Election Commission confirmed Victor A. Yushchenko's victory over Viktor F. Yanukovych in Sunday's court-ordered rerun presidential election. But there is still an air of uncertainty over what might happen next. [Page 7a]

NATIONAL

Shuttle improvements unveiled

In a major step toward resuming launches of the space shuttle, NASA officials unveiled an improved rocket fuel tank that will prevent the falling debris problem that destroyed space shuttle Columbia and killed seven astronauts. [Page 3a]

Slimmer Bush margin in Ohio

Election officials finished the presidential recount in Ohio, with the final tally shaving about 300 votes off President Bush's six-figure margin of victory in the state that gave him a second term. [Page 3a]

MARYLAND

Ehrlich, lawmakers in standoff

The opening day of a rare special session of the General Assembly ended with legislative leaders locked in a showdown with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. over how to subsidize doctors' insurance bills. The Senate and House of Delegates rejected a malpractice reform proposal unveiled by Ehrlich last week, instead passing plans that contain a tax on HMO premiums that Ehrlich promised to veto. [Page 1a]

Ehrlich oyster plan resisted

Top wildlife officials in Delaware and New Jersey say they strongly oppose a plan the Ehrlich administration is considering to introduce Asian oysters into the Chesapeake Bay. The officials said they agree with scientists who recommend at least five more years of research before a final decision is made. [Page 1b]

SPORTS

Aruba keeps Ponson in custody

Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson will be detained in Aruba for up to eight more days after meeting with a public prosecutor who's investigating a fight on Christmas that injured a local judge. A spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office said Ponson could be charged with assault and fighting in a public place. [Page 1C]

No. 24 Terps rout Liberty

John Gilchrist scored a season-high 29 points and Nik Caner-Medley had 20 to lead No. 24 Maryland to its fourth straight victory, 112-68, over Liberty. The Terps, who have looked flat at times this season, appeared to be motivated, showing little sympathy for an opponent that came in without a victory over a Division I team. [Page 1C]

Nuggets fire Bzdelik

The Denver Nuggets fired coach Jeff Bzdelik one day after the team lost its sixth straight game and failed again to live up to the high expectations that came with the offseason addition of All-Star forward Kenyon Martin. [Page 7c]

BUSINESS

Consumer confidence up in Dec.

U.S. consumer confidence jumped in December to its highest point in five months, beating the most optimistic forecast as more Americans said jobs are plentiful, and the outlook brightened for the economy over the next six months. [Page 1d]

Port security spending questioned

The Homeland Security Department has allowed federal grants for improving security at America's ports to be spent on low-priority problems, rather than on solving the most serious vulnerabilities, the agency's inspector general wrote before leaving his post this month. [Page 1d]

Md. manufacturing in decline

The shutdown of General Motors' Broening Highway van assembly plant in Baltimore next year will mark 2005 as another year of decline for Maryland's once dominant manufacturing sector. [Page 1d]

TODAY

Author Sontag dead at 71

Susan Sontag, the author, activist and self-defined "zealot of seriousness" whose voracious mind and provocative prose made her a leading intellectual of the past half century, died yesterday at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. She was 71. [Page 1e]

Bobby Darin biopic opens today

Kevin Spacey stars as Bobby Darin in the big-screen biopic Beyond the Sea, which opens in area theaters today. [Page 1e]

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"We're seeing devastation and death beyond belief. I've been through many disasters around the world, but I've never seen anything like this."

Michael Elmquist, leader of the U.N. assistance arm in Indonesia (Article, Page 9A)

Today Online

TSUNAMI AFTERMATH

For developments on the cleanup and relief efforts in the aftermath of the devastating tsunamis, go to www.baltimoresun.com/tsunami

RASHOD ON `BY DAY BY NIGHT'

See a video of The Sun's pop music critic, Rashod Ollison, reviewing Lizz Field's new release, By Day By Night. www.baltimoresun.com/rashodvideos

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