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While authorities weren't ready to confirm it, the fatal shooting of a man at a gas station in Manassas, Va., was being investigated as the likely ninth sniper attack in the Washington area. Police combed the scene of the Wednesday night shooting and were on the lookout for a white Dodge Caravan described by witnesses. If confirmed, it would bring the number of deaths in the series of attacks to seven. Two other people have been injured.

The White House dismissed an offer from Iraq to let US inspectors tour suspected weapons sites, as Congress neared votes on authorizing the use of military force to disarm Saddam Hussein's regime. President Bush was anticipating large, bipartisan approval in the House that would "send a strong message to the world and to Iraq," spokesman Ari Fleischer said. In the Senate, majority leader Tom Daschle (D) of South Dakota announced his backing. "I believe it is important for America to speak with one voice," he said.

The director of an Islamic charity based in Chicago was charged with racketeering, conspiracy, money-laundering, and wire fraud in an indictment announced by Attorney General Ashcroft. Enaam Arnaout was detained in April. He is accused of ties to terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and of using his Benevolence International Foundation to fund armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Bosnia. The group maintains the money went to humanitarian relief efforts.

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In potential good news for the economy, jobless claims fell last week to the lowest level in two months – counter to analysts' expectations of an increase. New claims for unemployment benefits dropped by a seasonally adjusted 40,000 to 384,000, the Labor Department said. Retailers, meanwhile, reported dismal sales in September, with department and clothing stores hardest hit.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin will meet with Bush at the president's Texas ranch during a US visit Oct. 22-25, that country's Foreign Ministry confirmed. China's opposition to any non-UN action against Iraq is expected to be a main issue. The talks are the third in the past year between the two leaders.

Questions on ImClone's purchase of two shredders as federal investigators were probing alleged insider trading faced the biotech firm's chief executive, Harlan Waksal, Thursday. He and other ImClone officials testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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