USA

President Bush ruled out easing the 40-year US trade embargo against Cuba, saying until the latter returns to democratic rule, trade "will merely enrich [Fidel] Castro and his cronies and prop up their dictatorship." In a White House speech, Bush also proposed limited measures to benefit the Cuban people, such private humanitarian aid, scholarships, and the resumption of bilateral mail service. The comments, which Bush was expected to repeat in an afternoon address to the Cuban-American community in Miami, came in response to ex-President Carter's appeal for an end to the embargo during a visit to Havana last week. Bush also was scheduled to attend a fund-raiser for his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R).

An American soldier was killed in eastern Afghanistan Sunday, apparently when his unit was fired on by Taliban or Al Qaeda remnants, a US military spokesman said. The casualty was identified as Sgt. Gene Arden Vance Jr. of the West Virginia National Guard. At least one enemy fighter was reported killed in the battle, near Khost. British-led forces have been searching the mountainous area, where Al Qaeda and Taliban forces are believed to be hiding.

The trial of a Lebanese national accused of funding the terrorist group Hizbullah with profits from a cigarette-smuggling operation opened amid heavy security at US District Court in Charlotte, N.C. Mohamad Hammoud's lawyer said it would be "extremely hard" to find an impartial jury after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Hammoud was charged under a 1996 law that makes it illegal to financially support terrorist groups. In addition, he and his brother, Chawki Hammoud, are accused of immigration fraud, cigarette smuggling, and other charges.

False documents are used by one in 12 of the foreigners who obtain Social Security numbers, the Social Security Administration inspector-general said, citing results of a preliminary investigation into the 1.2 million numbers given to noncitizens in 2000. James Huse Jr. called for better coordination with the Immigration and Naturalization Service in an effort to verify applications. Illegally obtained numbers often are used in identity theft and other crimes, and some of the Sept. 11 hijackers had them. (Related story, page 2; editorial, page 8.)

The Supreme Court ruled that states may indeed be sued in federal court over their efforts to foster competition among local phone-service providers. Maryland had argued it was protected from such challenges under a 1996 law.

In a separate decision, the justices found that defendants charged with minor crimes still have the right to a court-appointed lawyer, unless they knowingly and voluntarily wave that right. The case concerned LaReed Shelton, an Alabama man who argued he could have faced jail time if authorities had revoked the suspended sentence he received, after having to represent himself on an assault charge.

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