Iraq: U.S. wants too much

BAGHDAD - Iraqi lawmakers say the United States is demanding 58 bases as part of a proposed "status of forces" agreement that will allow U.S. troops to remain in the country indefinitely.

Leading members of the two ruling Shiite parties said in interviews the Iraqi government rejected this proposal along with another U.S. demand that would effectively hand over the power to determine if a hostile act from another country is aggression against Iraq. Lawmakers said they fear this power would drag Iraq into a war between the United States and Iran.

"The points that were put forth by the Americans were more abominable than the occupation," said Jalal al Din al-Saghir, a leading lawmaker from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.

Other conditions sought by the United States include control over Iraqi air space up to 30,000 feet and immunity from prosecution for U.S. troops and private military contractors.

Lobbyist's influence logged

WASHINGTON - Convicted superlobbyist Jack Abramoff influenced White House actions while his firm wooed administration officials over expensive meals and plied them with box tickets to sporting events, according to a House of Representatives committee report released yesterday.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said it had new White House documents and testimony that confirmed 80 White House contacts with Abramoff and uncovered 70 others despite White House assertions that Abramoff had vastly overblown his administration connections.

_ WASHINGTON - President Bush's former spokesman, Scott McClellan, will testify before a House committee next week about whether Vice President Dick Cheney ordered him to make misleading public statements about the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity.

Protection for Cheney

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney would continue to be shielded by the Secret Service for at least six months after he leaves office under legislation the House passed yesterday.

The measure, endorsed by both Democrats and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee last month, writes into law a common practice of extending federal protections for the vice president and his family in the months immediately after his time in office ends.

Former presidents up through President Clinton could, if they so chose, receive Secret Service protection for the remainder of their lives. That changed with a congressional act, which went into effect in 1997, limiting protection for future ex-presidents and their families to 10 years, barring exceptions for specific threats.

World's fastest computer

WASHINGTON - Scientists yesterday unveiled the world's fastest supercomputer, a $100 million machine that for the first time has performed 1,000 trillion calculations per second in a sustained exercise.

The technology breakthrough was accomplished by engineers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and IBM Corp. on a computer to be used primarily on nuclear weapons work, including simulating nuclear explosions.

The computer, named Roadrunner, is twice as fast as IBM's Blue Gene system at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which itself is three times faster than any of the world's other supercomputers, according to IBM.

"The computer is a speed demon. It will allow us to solve tremendous problems," said Thomas D'Agostino, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees nuclear weapons research and maintains the warhead stockpile.

But officials said the computer also could have a wide range of applications in civilian engineering, medicine and science, from developing biofuels and designing more fuel-efficient cars to finding drug therapies.

To put the computer's speed in perspective, it has roughly the computing power of 100,000 of today's most powerful laptops stacked 1.5 miles high, according to IBM. Or, if each of the world's 6 billion people worked on hand-held computers for 24 hours a day, it would take them 46 years to do what the Roadrunner computer can do in a single day. *

-Daily News wire services