USA

Nine major investment banks bear "significant complicity for their involvement" in lucrative schemes that helped Enron Corp. maintain its pre-collapse image as a profit powerhouse, an amended class-action suit filed Monday alleges. William Lerach, the lead attorney in the case, said the banks' knowledge of the questionable partnerships and financial vehicles gave them an inside view of Enron's financial condition as they sold securities to investors. The $25 billion lawsuit, originally filed in December on behalf of large investors, could have devastating consequences for Wall Street if it succeeds.

Concerned about Moscow's compliance with chemical- and biological-weapons treaties, the Bush administration is likely to hold back on some disarmament projects, a senior US official says. Secretary of State Powell, currently abroad on a Mideast peacemaking mission, is scheduled to dine with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov in Madrid on Wednesday to lay the groundwork for an upcoming arms-control summit between President Bush and Russian President Putin.

The Colorado Supreme Court refused Monday to order a bookstore to turn over its sales records to police as part of a drug investigation. The judges said police erred when they went after the records to establish whether a suspect had bought a "how to" book on making illegal drugs. The store's owner, citing protection of a customer's First Amendment rights, fought a search warrant and won a temporary injunction preventing police from seizing the records. A district judge ultimately allowed a limited search of store records, but that ruling was overturned.

Consumer complaints against US airlines fell for the first time in three years in 2001, declining 29 percent overall as more flights were on time and carriers lost fewer bags, according to a survey by Wichita State University and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The researchers said some of the root problems associated with past consumer complaints, like delays caused by air traffic congestion, were lower overall last year and disappeared altogether after Sept. 11 because there were far fewer flights by major airlines and fewer passengers.

US Drivers will pay an average of $1.46 for a gallon of gasoline during the busy summer driving season, 8 cents lower than last summer's average but the third highest on record, the Energy Department said Monday. It projected gasoline demand would be a record 8.8 million barrels per day, up 1.6 percent over the same period last year. Meanwhile, the Lundberg survey of gas stations nationwide reported that the price of gas jumped more than 8 cents in the past two weeks. Since Feb. 8, prices at the pump have increased 32 cents.

The escalating violence in the Middle East is spurring heated demonstrations and debate across the US, with protesters on either side of the conflict shouting chants, torching flags, and even scuffling over their beliefs. There was a surge in activity across the nation at the weekend with thousands of protesters reported to have taken to the streets in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Cincinnati, and Miami.

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