USA

House and Senate negotiators reached agreement on corporate-reform legislation, said a spokeswoman for Rep. Mike Oxley (R) of Ohio, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. President Bush had asked Congress to finish it before adjourning for the month-long August recess. The measure, in response to accounting scandals that sent stock markets into a recent tailspin, would create an oversight board for auditing businesses and would toughen penalties for executives convicted of misleading shareholders.

The Senate was expected to approve $28.9 billion in counterterrorism spending after the House passed the measure Tuesday. The bill, slightly larger than the $27.1 billion Bush had requested, contains funding for the Defense Department, intelligence activities, New York's continuing recovery from the Sept. 11 attacks, and aid for Afghanistan and Indonesia, as well as money to fight wildfires and floods in the West. Congress also is moving ahead on the creation of a Department of Homeland Security, with the House set to begin debate Thursday.

A week after his arrest while in possession of $12 million in phony cashiers checks, Omar Shishani was to appear in federal court for a detention hearing as the Monitor went to press. Shishani, who has both Jordanian and US passports, was taken into custody at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on a flight from Indonesia. He was indicted Tuesday for smuggling and possession of counterfeit securities. The FBI reportedly is investigating whether he has links to terrorist groups and possible connections to seven men detained in Las Vegas with fake checks drawn on the same California bank. Shishani's family says he is just a wealthy and well-traveled computer salesman.

Confronting a House vote that was expected to expel him for ethics violations, US Rep. James Traficant (D) of Ohio, said he'd speak and dress in typical outrageous style for Wednesday night's proceeding. He would be just the second House member ejected since the Civil War. The violations coincide with his conviction in April for racketeering, bribery, and tax evasion. Traficant has said he will appeal the conviction and is seeking reelection as an independent.

A kidnapped Philadelphia girl was safely back with her family after escaping from her captors. Police said Erica Pratt chewed through duct-tape restraints, smashed a window in the abandoned building where she was being held, and called to nearby children for help. Authorities are looking for two suspects identified by witnesses to Monday's abduction, which occurred in front of Pratt's grandmother's rowhouse in an impoverished section of the city.

Calling snakeheads "something from a bad horror movie," Interior Secretary Gale Norton proposed banning the import or interstate transport of 28 species of the toothy fish. More than 100 northern snakeheads, a variety native to China's Yangtze River, were found at a pond in suburban Crofton, Md., earlier this month. Officials worry that the fish, voracious feeders that can grow up to three-feet long and crawl on land between nearby bodies of water, could have a devastating impact on local wildlife. Another, even larger snakehead variety has been found in Florida.

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