USA

Secretary of State Powell was to present the US verdict on Iraq's weapons declaration to the UN Security Council Thursday morning. On Wednesday, Powell said the Bush administration's experts found "problems with the declaration, gaps, omissions, and all of this is troublesome." President Bush previously called the document Iraq's last chance to disarm voluntarily and avoid possible military action.

Federal agents arrested seven people and searched nine businesses and homes in Detroit and the nearby suburb of Dearborn, Mich., in connection with the alleged illegal transfer of up to $50 million a year to Yemen. Kalid Kaid, coowner of a raided gas station, said the arrests have alarmed the Arab-American community. They follow similar sweeps in Buffalo, N.Y., and Dallas that the Justice Department said are aimed at cracking down on possible terrorist financing.

Hundreds of Iranian-Americans held a demonstration outside a federal building in Los Angeles. Immigrant and Islamic groups estimate 500 Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians, and others of Middle Eastern origin have been jailed in southern California in recent days for immigration and other violations.

In a sign of improvement in the uneven economy, the index of leading economic indicators rose 0.7 percent in November, New York's Conference Board reported. The jump was the largest monthly gain in a year, and was higher than analysts had anticipated.

A judge in New York reversed the convictions of all five defendants in the Central Park jogger rape case. Most already had completed their sentences from the 1989 attack. The Manhattan District Attorney requested the dismissal two weeks ago. Another man jailed for an unrelated rape confessed to the crime earlier this year.

Homelessness and hunger rose sharply this year, due to high housing costs, low-paying jobs, and unemployment, an annual report by the US Conference of Mayors said. Emergency requests for food and shelter rose by an average of 19 percent in 25 cities surveyed. Terming the results "a national disgrace," Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (D), the conference president, said affordable housing "should be on everyone's agenda."

The National Basketball Association selected billionaire Robert Johnson over other bidders for an expansion team to begin play in 2004. If OK'd at a meeting of NBA team owners in January, Johnson will be the first African-American to own controlling interest in a major professional sports team. He is the founder of the Black Entertainment Television channel.

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