USA

Lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill for the second and final year of the 107th Congress, confronting a daunting agenda that includes investigating the demise of Enron Corp. and trying to help raise the economy out of recession. In an effort to get off to a sound bipartisan start, leaders of the Senate and House met with President Bush at the White House shortly before their chambers were to convene at noon. Aides said the leaders intended to discuss often-conflicting legislative priorities, which basically come down to Republican support for tax cuts versus Democratic calls for increased spending.

Annual deficits will be back for the next two years and federal surplus projections for the next 10 years have plunged 71 percent, the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported. Further dramatizing the worsening fiscal pressures faced by Bush and Congress, the CBO projected deficits of $21 billion this year and $14 billion in fiscal 2003, which starts Oct. 1. Analysts pin the nose-dive on the recession and the cost of the war on terrorism. Key Democrats also have sought to blame it on Bush's 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut.

Congressional investigators are to begin hearings into the collapse of energy giant Enron Corp. today as the furor grows among investors and laid-off employees who have incurred major financial losses. Amid revelations that key documents have been destroyed by the company and its auditor, the hearings will be the highest-profile investigation into how the seventh-largest US corporation became the biggest bankruptcy in history. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department are also probing allegations that Enron inflated earnings and played down losses. (Story, page 1.)

Microsoft was sued by AOL Time Warner for damage to its Netscape Internet browser by violations of antitrust law found in a separate federal case against the software giant. The 20-page lawsuit claims the once-dominant Netscape, bought by AOL in 1999, was harmed by Microsoft's promotion of its Internet Explorer browser by using its monopoly in personal computer operating systems to maintain its own dominance.

The Pentagon suspended flights of war captives from Afghan-istan to the US Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, while detention facilities are added and upgraded, defense officials said. So far, 158 Al Qaeda and Taliban members are being held at the base. The decision comes amid criticism from civil rights groups and some foreign lawmakers over the treatment of the captives and the US's refusal to designate them as prisoners of war. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has in recent days denied allegations of mistreatment several times. (Related story, page 1.)

If convicted sex offenders are to be confined after their prison terms expire, states must prove that they cannot control themselves, the Supreme Court ruled. In the 7-to-2 decision, rapists, child molesters, and other sex criminals must be treated the same as other people singled out for involuntary commitment. The ruling is a defeat for the 20 states that use such confinement to extend the time potential repeat offenders are locked away.

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