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Adam Shemper and Elizabeth Woyke

STEPPING DOWN. DAN RATHER, 73, after 24 years as the dogged, often combative anchor of No. 3-ranked CBS Evening News; effective March 9, 2005. The longest-serving evening news anchor, Rather made his reputation, in his words, as a “reporter-anchor, not an anchor-reporter.” Career highs included covering the assassination of John F. Kennedy, winning the first interview with Saddam Hussein after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and, earlier this year, breaking the story of abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. More overtly emotional than his fellow network anchors, Rather was famous for folksy Southern “Danisms” like “This race is hotter than a Times Square Rolex.” But he constantly enraged conservative critics, who deemed him too liberal. In September, his reputation suffered incalculably when a 60 Minutes report about President George W. Bush’s record in the Texas National Guard turned out to have been based on unverified documents. Rather apologized on-air for the piece. Though he had once planned to stay until at least his 25th anniversary, Rather announced his departure as a panel investigating his September segment prepares to release its findings later this month. He will continue to report for 60 Minutes.

RELEASED. United Nations workers ANGELITO NAYAN, 34, of the Philippines, ANNETTE FLANIGAN, 43, of Northern Ireland, and SHQIPE HEBIBI, 36, of Kosovo; after being kidnapped by Habib Noorzad, a splinter faction of the Taliban; in Kabul. The three had helped organize Afghanistan’s landmark Oct. 9 election and were abducted at gunpoint on Oct. 28. The captors said the government had agreed to release 24 Taliban prisoners in exchange for the hostages, a claim that was denied by Afghan Interior Minister Ahmed Ali Jalali.

FREED. ASIF ALI ZARDARI, 52, husband of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto; by the Supreme Court, on $17,000 bail; in Islamabad. Zardari, jailed in 1996 when his wife’s government was removed from power, faced up to 22 charges, including tax evasion and conspiracy in the murder of Bhutto’s brother, Mir Murtaza. He was acquitted of 14 charges and granted bail on seven when the final case ended last week.

ARRESTED. ROIS, a.k.a. Iwan Darmawan, a chief suspect in the Sept. 9 bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta that killed six people; along with three suspected accomplices; in East Java, Indonesia. Police say the arrests could lead them to the alleged mastermind behind the bombing, Malaysian Azahari bin Husin, who is also accused of playing a role in the 2002 Bali attack, which killed 202.

DIED. ARTHUR HAILEY, 84, best-selling author of thrillers such as Airport, Hotel and The Moneychangers; at his home in the Bahamas. Belittled by critics, Hailey’s books were commercial blockbusters that turned mundane settings into labyrinths of deception and malice. Airport (1968) was made into a movie starring Burt Lancaster.

DIED. JAMES WONG, 64, lyricist who helped father the sweetly infectious Canto-pop sounds of the 1980s and ’90s; after a three-year battle with lung cancer; in Hong Kong. Wong also composed for films, television and advertising, and was also an accomplished actor, director, writer and TV talk-show host. He penned more than 1,000 songs, including the theme to Under the Lion Rock, a hit Hong Kong TV series of the 1970s.


8.2 MILLION Number of Asians with HIV, according to a report by UNAids and the World Health Organization

2.3 MILLION Number of those infected who are women, a 56% increase from 2002

400,000 Number of Iraqi children suffering from malnutrition, according to a United Nations Development Programme study

$31.2 BILLION Amount of Iraqi foreign debt written off by 19 of its creditors last week

$89 BILLION Remaining Iraqi foreign debt

61% Portion of people in Japan opposed to an extension of its armed forces’ tour in Iraq beyond the Dec. 14 deadline

64% Proportion of Japanese women in their 20s and 30s who have been groped on Tokyo’s transit system, according to a government poll

$28,000 Winning bid for a 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich said to resemble the Virgin Mary, on the auction website eBay

$102,000 Price of a 4-cm platinum-and-diamond Hello Kitty figurine at an Osaka department store

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