USA

Calling the death penalty process "arbitrary, capricious, and ... immoral," outgoing Gov. George Ryan (R) of Illinois commuted the sentences of 167 condemned inmates Saturday. Ryan's action, just two days before leaving office, drew angry reaction from prosecutors, incoming governor Rod Blagojevich (D), and the relatives of some crime victims. "I'm not prepared to take the risk that we may execute an innocent person," Ryan said in a letter explaining his decision to victims' families. He suspended all executions in the state nearly three years ago after courts found that 13 Illinois death-row inmates had been wrongly convicted since capital punishment resumed in 1977.

The Pentagon has ordered another 62,000 military personnel to the Persian Gulf, despite the reservations of some US allies and UN weapons inspectors in Iraq reporting "no smoking gun." Defense Secretary Rumsfeld signed two separate deployment orders Friday and Saturday, in what experts say is an indication that the US could be positioning for an attack on Iraq by mid-February, with a force exceeding 150,000 soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen.

White House lawyers are laying the groundwork to oppose a University of Michigan program that gives preference to minority students, a step that could inject President Bush into the biggest affirmative action case in a generation. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of programs that give black and Hispanic students an edge when applying to the university and its law school.

Thousands of men from 13 predominantly Arab or Muslim countries registered with US immigration authorities by Friday's deadline, part of a post-Sept. 11, 2001, crackdown that has alarmed civil liberties groups and stirred concerns of mass arrests. About 7,200 men aged 16 or older were expected to check in at Immigration and Naturalization Service offices nationwide. Civil liberties' advocates say the program is an inefficient way to find terrorists and will alienate people who might help the government.

Oscar-winning director and producer Steven Spielberg has accepted the first star of 2003 on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The director of "Jaws," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," unveiled the honor Friday. Spielberg has collected three Oscars, two for directing and producing best-picture winner "Schindler's List," and a third for directing "Saving Private Ryan."

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