USA

President Bush traveled to the US heartland to trumpet free trade as a way to create jobs, undeterred by health concerns after he choked on a pretzel Sunday at the White House. His two-day trip takes him to Illinois, Missouri, and Louisiana. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush will go "to where products are manufactured in the heartland and watch them at a port where they get shipped off. It will illustrate how trade creates jobs for farmers, for workers, and for longshoremen." (Story, page 2.)

Americans are gradually becoming more optimistic about the economy, results of a new Monitor/TIPP poll show. In data released Monday, the optimism index edged up this month to 61.1 from 60.5 as 2001 drew to a close and from 52.1 in a September survey prior to the terrorist attacks. A reading above 50 is considered positive. The January index was highest in the South (63.8) and among those aged 18-24 (64.5). It was lowest in the Northeast (54.7) and among those 65 and older (58.4). The survey measures people's views on federal economic policy, their own finances, and their outlook for the economy in six months.

The Supreme Court turned down an opportunity to set limits on how far the federal government may go to protect endangered species. The justices refused to review a case involving shrimp found mainly in California that would have affected government efforts to protect all dying wildlife. An association of California builders challenged the constitutionality of the Endangered Species Act and the way the government handled the classification of shrimp.

A pilot for US Airways was released from jail Monday after being arrested at Philadelphia International Airport for "inappropriate" comments at an airport security checkpoint. Elwood Menear was charged Sunday with making terrorist threats and disorderly conduct. A local TV station reported he allegedly asked, "Why are you worried about tweezers when I could crash the plane?"

Survivors of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and relatives of those who died joined Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) of New York Sunday to campaign for changes to the Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund. The fund forms part of the $15 billion airline relief package passed by Congress and allows families to apply for federal money as long as they agree not to sue airlines and other entities. Clinton (above) proposed changes to eligibility guidelines.

An Oregon man on the FBI's "10 Most Wanted" list was arrested near Cancun, Mexico, over the weekend. Christian Longo had been on the run since late last month when the remains of his wife and three children were found submerged in inlets near the Pacific Ocean.

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