USA

Drawn by heavy discounting, consumers boosted retail sales in October by 7.1 percent, the biggest one-month gain yet recorded, the Commerce Department announced. The jump in sales came after consumers cut back on spending in September, pushing sales down 2.2 percent. Much of the strength in the October report came from a record 26.4 percent increase in car sales, which have been boosted by zero-percent financing and other deals. Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of all economic activity. (Story, page 2.)

President Bush and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, both pledged to slash their nations' respective stockpiles of long-range nuclear weapons by two-thirds. Bush proposed setting a new US ceiling of 1,700 to 2,200 warheads over the next decade. The US now has about 7,000; Russia 5,800. The two leaders planned to discuss their differences over Bush's plan to develop a US missile-defense system at his Crawford, Texas, ranch today. Above, a welcome sign for Putin made by local schoolchildren hangs from a ranch fence.

Investigators pored over both black boxes recovered from American Airlines Flight 587, hoping to explain why the plane shook twice before breaking apart over a residential area of Queens, N.Y., shortly after takeoff from Kennedy Airport. The cockpit voice recorder indicates pilots struggled for control right after takeoff, and encountered wake turbulence. More clues may be uncovered following the discovery of the flight data recorder, which tracks instruments and engine performance. Officials say they don't know what ripped the 25-foot-tall tail fin off the fuselage. Investigators say mechanical problems likely caused the crash that killed all 260 people aboard.

Bush approved the framework for the use of military tribunals - the likes of which the US has not seen since World War II - for use in cases involving terror assaults. The emergency order doesn't require approval by Congress. The Sept. 11 attacks and threat of new terrorism justify the measure, White House officials said. A special military court could try accused terrorists in greater secrecy - and much more quickly - than a conventional, open court. Rules for such a court also give the government a freer hand to introduce evidence.

Transportation Department inspector-general Kenneth Mead told a Senate hearing that his office has identified at least 90 incidents involving poor security practices since they began monitoring screening operations in airports after Sept. 11. They included inconsistent use of explosive detection systems to screen checked bags, screeners not finding knives, and other dangerous items in carry-on bags. He said lapses occurred despite tighter controls implemented after Sept. 11.

Manny Diaz, an attorney who last year represented relatives of Elian Gonzalez, became Miami's new mayor after winning a runoff against former six-term mayor Maurice Ferre. He took 55.3 percent of the vote. Diaz, who is of Cuban descent, has never before held public office and will assume his new duties amid a major police corruption scandal.

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