USA

The Pentagon released an amateur videotape of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden discussing the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the US and providing what it said is compelling evidence that the fugitive militant knew of the plot before it was carried out. The 40-minute tape, found in Afghanistan where bin Laden is believed to be hiding, was accompanied by an English translation on which the Bush administration had been working for days with Arabic-speaking experts.

President Bush invoked executive privilege for the first time to keep Congress from seeing documents of prosecutors' decision-making in cases ranging from decades-old murders blamed on a Boston organized-crime mob to the Clinton-era fund-raising probe. The administration informed a House committee of the decision prior to a congressional hearing on the Boston case involving the FBI's handling of informants.

Senate negotiators announced an agreement on election-system overhaul, a day after the House approved a similar bill. The twin actions, designed to avoid a repeat of the disputed 2000 presidential election, raise the prospect of a House-Senate compromise that could be sent to Bush for his signature early next year. The legislation would provide funding for improvements and equipment and establish such standards as what constitutes a vote.

After denouncing his trial as a "propaganda show," the leader of a Cuban spy ring received a life sentence in prison for his role in the infiltration of US military bases and the deaths of four Cuban-Americans whose planes were shot down by Cuban jets in 1996. Gerardo Hernandez was one of five secret agents convicted in June after a crackdown on spies operating inside the US. Above, Jose Basulto, president of Brothers to the Rescue, and Eva Barba, mother of one of the killed pilots, arrive at the Federal court in Miami before the sentencing.

Accusing Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. of illegally attempting to keep a generic alternative to one of its drugs off the market, 29 states and Puerto Rico filed suit against the New York-based company. It alleges the pharmaceutical company made false statements to the Food and Drug Administration to keep its patent on BuSpar, an anti-anxiety drug. Unspecified monetary damages for consumers and taxpayers are being sought.

A 24,000-ton shipment of American grain is expected to leave New Orleans today for Cuba, marking the first commercial export of US food to the communist -run island in 40 years. The Castro government sought such purchases in the wake of the heavily destructive hurricane Michelle Nov. 4.

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