USA

Nestle SA, the world's biggest food and drink company, said Thursday it will buy Gerber Products Co. from pharmaceutical maker Novartis SA for $5.5 billion. Gerber accounts for nearly 80 percent of all US baby food sales.

Sallie Mae, which manages about $142 billion in education loans, agreed to a settlement Wednesday stemming from a New York State investigation of questionable student lending practices. The arrangement requires the company to adopt a code of conduct and help fund efforts to educate the public about the student loan industry.

Because US forces are stretched, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday that three months will be added to the 12-month tours for all 100,000 active-duty soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. This eliminates extensions on a unit-by-unit basis and ensures one-year breaks between deployment.

Saying new legislation crossed "a moral line," President Bush vowed Wednesday to veto a bill funding embryonic stem-cell research if it advances all the way through Congress. He vetoed a similar bill last year.

A federal grand jury in Columbus, Ohio, Wednesday indicted Christopher Paul, a US citizen, on charges of joining Al Qaeda and conspiring to bomb European tourist resorts and US government facilities and military bases overseas. Paul trained with Al Qaeda in the early 1990s, the indictment said.

Following in the footsteps of Virginia and Maryland, North Carolina passed a resolution Wednesday apologizing for "the injustice, cruelty, and brutality of slavery."

Radio host Don Imus hinted Thursday that he might retire after MSNBC dumped his simultaneous cable TV broadcast following the uproar over racist and sexist comments he made about the Rutgers women's basketball team.

Writer Kurt Vonnegut, who died Wednesday in New York, was known for mixing elements of social commentary, science fiction, and autobiography into books such as "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Cat's Cradle."

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