USA

The Supreme Court abandoned plans to rule on a major reverse discrimination case, concluding unanimously that it wasn't a good vehicle for testing federal affirmative action rules. Opponents of racial preferences had hoped the justices would use the 11-year fight over government highway contracts to declare affirmative action programs unconstitutional. The case, Adarand Constructors Inc. v. Mineta, had developed procedural problems justices last month suggested were too messy to fix.

Iraq rejected a demand by President Bush to allow UN arms inspectors back into the country, telling him it would not bow to threats. Bush had warned the Baghdad government to allow the inspectors in to prove that Iraq isn't developing weapons of mass destruction or "face consequences." Bush also warned North Korea to steer clear of such development.

Consumer confidence fell for the fifth consecutive month in November to 82.2, the lowest since February 1994, as Americans worried about rising unemployment and their personal buying power, the Conference Board reported. Its Consumer Confidence Index compares results to the base year, 1985, when it stood at 100. Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of all US economic activity.

International airlines have until tomorrow to start handing over advance lists of passengers on flights headed for the US or face heightened inspections, Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner warned. Many carriers already offer the information, but in a letter to 58 others that don't, Bonner said not providing the information posed a serious security risk to the US. Airlines would have 60 days to start providing the information under the Advance Passenger Information System signed into law last week.

Home ownership for Americans is at its highest point in more than 100 years, according to a newly released Census 2000 report. Nationally, 66 percent of the 105.5 million occupied housing units in 2000 were lived in by the owner, up from 64 percent of 91.9 million occupied homes in 1990. Of the 54.1 million married couples, more than 81 percent owned their homes in 2000, up from 78 percent in 1990. But while the number of homeowners has increased steadily since 1940, demographic discrepancies remain, the bureau reported.

The Monitor's Clay Bennett has been chosen the top editorial cartoonist for 2001 by Editor & Publisher Magazine, the leading publication of the newspaper industry. Its panel of editors found his work "pull[s] readers into editorial pages with powerful imagery." Robert Laird of the New York Daily News said Bennett's cartoons are "very visual, very sculptural. They just jump off the page at you. You don't see that from anyone else."

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