World Briefs

Office: Deal reached to free journalists


A deal has been reached with kidnappers for the release of two CBS journalists, radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's office in Basra said today.

Harith al-Ethari, a director of al-Sadr's office in the southern Iraqi city, said negotiations had persuaded the kidnappers to release the British journalist and his Iraqi interpreter later today.

"We reached an agreement with kidnappers to hand over the Iraqi interpreter to the police command in Basra and the British journalist will be handed over to al-Sadr's office in Basra this afternoon," al-Ethari told The Associated Press. He did not give a specific time.

Iraqi police and witnesses said the two were seized Sunday from a hotel in Basra, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad.

CBS News said Monday that two journalists working for it were missing in Basra, but it did not identify them and has requested their names not be released if obtained.

Sick astronaut says he's feeling great


German astronaut Hans Schlegel said he's feeling great and well enough to make a spacewalk today, after sitting out the mission's first outing because of illness.

But he refused Tuesday to say what had been ailing him. "Medical issues are private," he said.

Schlegel will float outside the linked space shuttle Atlantis and international space station two days after sitting out the flight's first spacewalk, which involved installing Europe's new Columbus science lab. He'll be joined by American Rex Walheim, who went out Monday.

Vote to end writers strike clears path


Lights, camera, action &

but first, here come the writers. Members of the Writers Guild of America were planning a return to work today after voting to end their strike on its 100th day, thus allowing Hollywood to jump-start stalled production of numerous TV sitcoms and dramas.

"It will be all hands on deck for the writing staff," said Chris Mundy, co-executive producer of the CBS drama "Criminal Minds." Actual production won't begin, however, until scripts have been completed, which could take days or even weeks.

For the Feb. 24 Academy Awards, the vote Tuesday by East and West Coast guild members ended the threat of a boycott by writers and actors that would have robbed the ceremony of its celebrity luster.

Highest foreclosure rates of 2007 are in


The Detroit area, hit hard by the double-whammy of unemployment and a slumping housing market, had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation last year, with several cities in California ranked close behind, an analysis of foreclosure activity in the country's largest 100 metropolitan areas shows.

Some 4.9 percent of the households in the Detroit metro area were in some stage of foreclosure in 2007 &

4.8 times the national average, according to the study being released today by mortgage research company RealtyTrac Inc.

Stockton, Calif., ranked second with about 4.8 percent of its households in some stage of foreclosure, while the Las Vegas metro area was third with a 4.2 percent rate.

Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac determines the ranking by comparing the number of households in a metro area with the number of foreclosure filings, which include notices of default, auction sale notices or bank repossessions.

In all, 72,616 filings on 41,273 properties were reported in the Detroit metro area, which includes Livonia and Dearborn. The foreclosure rate represents a 68 percent jump from 2006, RealtyTrac said.


173;"" The Associated Press

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