USA

President Bush authorized a multimillion-dollar relief package for Afghan refugees in a prelude to military action against their nation's terrorist-harboring Taliban regime. Bush reportedly also approved plans to help groups opposing the Taliban. Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network are the prime suspects behind the Sept. 11 attacks, and the Taliban has conceded it is harboring him. The likelihood of US-led strikes on Afghanistan appeared closer after the Taliban again defied a US demand to hand over bin Laden.

The Supreme Court suspended ex-President Clinton from practicing law before it and gave him 40 days to contest the ruling. The justices did not explain their reasoning, but such action often follows disbarment in lower courts. In April, Clinton's Arkansas law license was suspended for five years and he paid a $25,000 fine for giving misleading testimony in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case. Most lawyers admitted to the high court bar never argue a case there, but the right to do so is considered an honor.

The high court also rejected arguments by lawyers for Oklahoma City bombing defendant Terry Nichols that the FBI's failure to turn over thousands of documents in the case give him grounds to seek a new trial. Nichols claimed some of the materials, which were discovered last spring, could have helped him in his 1997 trial.

The justices also turned down an appeal from a Muslim who claimed her rights were violated when she was pressured to stop covering her hair with a scarf at her job because it did not match the uniforms coworkers were required to wear. Alamo Rent-A-Car Inc. won a third round in the case with former employee Zeinab Ali when the justices refused to intervene. The suit, arising from a 1996 incident at Washington's Reagan National Airport, was dismissed by lower courts because judges said she didn't prove she was hurt financially because of religious discrimination.

Twenty-eight thousand people - about half of Minnesota's state workers - went on strike over wages and health benefits. The strike is the largest government work stoppage in the state's history. It involves highway maintenance workers, tax collectors, janitors, office clerks, and parole officers, all members of the two largest public-employee unions. The state offered pay raises in its new, two-year contracts, but union members say they're not large enough. Negotiators for the state said a slowing economy makes fiscal prudence essential and giving more money could result in layoffs.

For the second straight month, consumer spending rose modestly in August as tax-rebate checks put more money in shoppers' pockets, the Commerce Department reported. Spending increased 0.2 percent while disposable incomes increased 1.9 percent, the biggest advance since December 1993.

New York officials lowered by more than 400 the number of people still missing in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The announcement brings the total dead and missing from the attacks in New York and at the Pentagon and the plane crash in Pennsylvania to fewer than 6,000. The changing toll is largely the result of some names being listed twice.

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