USA

A federal appeals court ruled the government may hold US citizens as enemy combatants during wartime without the constitutional protections afforded Americans in criminal prosecutions. In overturning a lower court ruling, the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., said the status of Yaser Esam Hamdi as a citizen did not change the fact that he was captured in Afghanistan while fighting alongside Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters.

The House voted to provide additional unemployment benefits to some 2.5 million Americans, speeding the emergency bill to the White House where President Bush signed it Wednesday. The House passed the $7.25 billion plan - which will extend the federal program by another five months - on a vote of 416 to 4.

The House also voted to keep federal agencies functioning through January while lawmakers try to resolve a bitter budget stalemate that has kept them from completing 11 spending bills due to have been finalized in October. The voice vote Wednesday sent the bill to the Senate, which was expected to approve it and send it to the president.

Corporate executives who defraud investors or shred incriminating documents will be sentenced to longer prison terms under guidelines approved by the Sentencing Commission. The Justice Department complained that the new sentence ranges, which double current terms, do not go far enough. Defense lawyers said the commission went too far.

The cockpit voice recorder from the commuter plane that crashed in Charlotte, N.C., has "very good" sound, but there are problems with the other black box, an official with the National Transportation Safety Board said. With few clues into the cause of the accident, investigators hope the flight data recorder will be able to provide some answers. Wednesday's crash claimed 21 lives.

The leader of a white supremacist group linked to a deadly 1999 shooting rampage was arrested for trying to arrange the murder of a federal judge. Matt Hale, head of the World Church of the Creator, was taken into custody by agents of a terrorism task force upon arrival at a federal courthouse in Chicago for a contempt-of-court hearing. He pleaded innocent at a short court hearing and is scheduled to appear again Monday.

County commissioners in Tennessee who lost a court fight over displaying the Ten Commandments on courthouse walls voted to sell the plaques to the highest bidder to raise the $7,000 they still owe their attorneys. Private donors have provided about $70,000 for the commission's legal costs.

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