USA

For the second time in as many days, President Bush signed legislation that he'd made a priority with Congress. At a White House ceremony, Bush described the Terrorism Insurance Act as vital to the counterterrorism war and to US economic security, by providing coverage for catastrophic losses from future terrorist attacks. The measure, which was criticized by opponents as an unnecessary bailout for the insurance industry, would provide $85 billion to $90 billion for each of the next three years to help insurers pay any claims above $5 million.

At least 30,000 people were victims of an identity-theft ring responsible for losses of $2.7 million - and counting - federal authorities in New York said. They called the case the biggest of its kind to date. Three men were charged in the scheme Monday. One of them, Philip Cummings, an employee of Teledata Communications, a Long Island software company, is accused of selling passwords and codes for downloading consumer credit reports. Associates allegedly used the data to drain existing bank and credit card accounts and to open new ones.

The Consumer Confidence Index rose slightly in November to 84.1, ending five months of declines, the Conference Board reported. The New York-based group's index is widely watched as an indicator of future spending.

In another positive sign, the economy grew at an annual rate of 4 percent in the third quarter, the Commerce Department said, raising its previous reading on the nation's gross domestic product. But in a separate report, the Commerce Department said new-home sales fell 4.5 perecent in October from the previous month.

State governments across the nation face a combined deficit of $40 billion or more next year after posting the first collective decrease in revenues since World War II, a report by the National Governors Association said. Many states already have cut spending, and 23 raised taxes in response to budget shortfalls, which the semi-annual report blamed on spiraling healthcare costs and the unsteady economy. More federal assistance is needed, said the association's executive director, Raymond Scheppach.

High winds of up to 50 m.p.h. battered sections of California for a second day Tuesday, knocking out power to more than 60,000 customers from San Francisco to San Diego. The winds also fanned already burning brushfires in the Sierra Nevada and Los Angeles areas.

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