USA

Federal government control over aviation security was dramatically expanded by President Bush, who signed into law a bill of sweeping security measures for the industry. Under the new law, the government will assume control of passenger- and baggage-screening operations, now run by private security firms contracted by airlines, and put all 28,000 screeners on the federal payroll over three years. Screeners will have to be US citizens and will be barred from striking. The law also calls for stronger cockpit doors on planes and an increased presence of armed federal marshals on flights.

Hoping to jumpstart the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Bush is sending senior diplomat William Burns to the Middle East, Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an address at the University of Louisville. Reaffirming Washington's commitment to playing a leadership role in the region, Powell, above, said the US will push and prod Israelis and Palestinians to reach peace, but called on both sides to make concessions, end tensions, and live as neighbors.

Bush was to announce the shipment of thousands of tons of US processed food to Afghanistan, worth more than $5 million, officials told CNN. The announcement would be part of a broader humanitarian effort to feed starving Afghans, an initiative that officials said was getting renewed attention during the holiday season. The shipment was due to leave Lake Charles, Louisiana, today.

Housing construction declined in October as builders displayed more caution in the face of sagging consumer confidence and rising unemployment. The Commerce Department reported that last month, builders broke ground on 1.55 million housing units at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, a 1.3 percent drop from September.

Some regions of the country are seeing buck-a-gallon gas for the first time in months because of weak demand and the plunging cost of crude oil, industry analysts said. The price of gasoline fell 4.5 cents in the past two weeks with the lowest price in the nation last Friday for a gallon of regular grade registered at 97 cents in Atlanta. (Story, Page 2)

Utah's Republican attorney general is being criticized for rejecting a settlement of the antitrust suit against Microsoft and is bracing for a possible challenge for his party's nomination when he seeks re-election. Attorney General Mark Shurtleff made up his mind just before the Nov. 6 deadline to join with eight other states in continuing the antitrust litigation.

Al Gore has accepted a job as vice chairman of Metropolitan West Financial, a Los Angeles-based financial services holding company. The former vice president and last year's Democratic presidential candidate said that after a quarter-century of serving as a congressman, senator, and vice president, he was "eager to learn more about business as an active executive of this dynamic and community-oriented company."

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