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Colbert Off the Ballot In South Carolina

Stephen Colbert’s nascent and satirical presidential campaign came to an abrupt end on Thursday when the Democratic Party in South Carolina decided he was not serious and turned down his application to get his name on the primary ballot.

South Carolina is the only state where Colbert, the comedian and a native South Carolinian, had sought to get on the ballot. He did not try getting on the Republican line, which would have cost $35,000. A space on the Democratic ballot costs $2,500, which Colbert had paid by Thursday’s deadline.

But Carol Fowler, chairwoman of the state Democratic party, said the party’s executive council determined that he did not meet two basic requirements: that he be generally acknowledged as a viable nationwide candidate; and be actively campaigning for the South Carolina primary. The council voted 13-3 against certifying him.

“The council really agonized over this because they really like him, they love his show and everyone thinks it’s wonderful that he cares about us,” Fowler said. Colbert is the host of “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central.

His check will be returned, she said.

Supporters of Colbert’s candidacy have said it cast an amusing and revealing eye on the hype and folly of presidential politics and could bring younger voters into the process. But it also drew critics, who said the candidacy was a self-promotional distraction that was draining news media time and attention away from a serious campaign.

Israel Destroys Seven Gaza Tunnels

The Israeli military said on Thursday that its forces had discovered seven tunnels running under the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

Army officials said that the tunnels were used by Hamas to smuggle militants in and out of the Gaza Strip, and that they were part of the group’s “weapons supply mechanism.” The tunnels were subsequently blown up, they said.

A Hamas representative in Gaza acknowledged on Wednesday that the group brought in weapons through tunnels. The underground passages also serve a thriving black market in goods like cigarettes, which have become scarce because of severe Israeli restrictions on imports since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in June.

Tensions have risen in recent days. On Thursday morning, Palestinian militants fired nine rockets toward Israel, an army spokeswoman said. One damaged a building in the Israeli border town of Sderot, she said.

The Israeli air force fired at militants who were launching rockets in northern Gaza toward Israel, and Israeli ground forces shot at two groups of militants in the south.

In all, 10 Palestinians were wounded, according to news reports.

Late Wednesday, the Israeli military released video of Gaza militants firing mortar rounds from the yard of an elementary school in the northern town of Beit Hanoun on Monday morning.

Work Starts on Minneapolis Bridge Replacement

Three months after the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed, construction of a replacement began here on Wednesday.

The rebuilding follows a judge’s rejection of a request for a restraining order to halt the work. Judge Edward J. Cleary of District Court in Ramsey County ruled that it was in the state’s best interest to proceed with the construction.

He criticized the Minnesota Transportation Department for not disclosing how it had selected the contractor, saying the state had “cloaked the decision in secrecy.”

The department, Cleary wrote, “should have felt secure enough in its selection to allow for a legitimate protest, making all information that led to the selection available to the unsuccessful contractors prior to the execution of the contract.”

Two construction executives have sued, challenging the fairness of the contract with Flatiron-Manson, a joint venture of Flatiron Constructors of Colorado and Manson Construction of Florida that Minnesota hired for the new bridge.

Job Cuts at Chrysler Go Even Deeper Than Expected

Over the last two years, the three American auto companies have vowed that their plans to slash nearly 80,000 jobs and close more than two dozen plants would be enough to transform them into leaner and nimbler competitors.

But the housing bust and soaring oil prices have forced Chrysler and General Motors to make another round of surprising cuts, with no guarantees that these will be the last.

On Thursday, Chrysler announced it would eliminate 11,000 hourly and salaried jobs in the United States and Canada, and cut shifts of workers at five plants. The decision comes on top of a plan, announced in February, to eliminate 13,000 jobs and close a factory in Newark, Del.

Taken together, Chrysler will be reducing its 2006 work force of about 80,000 employees by 30 percent.

General Motors also recently said that it would eliminate shifts at three assembly plants in Michigan. The moves, announced after GM union workers approved their new contract, will likely cut 3,000 jobs, though GM has not confirmed the total. Two years ago, GM announced 30,000 job cuts as part of a broad restructuring.

“It does take one’s breath away to realize that the auto industry in the U.S., having gone through so much turmoil and so many rounds of cuts, is going through them yet again,” said Michael Useem, a professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.