USA

President Saddam Hussein is losing his grip on Iraq, and may have been killed in a US air strike late Monday, President Bush asserted in a joint appearance with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Wrapping up a summit outside Belfast, Northern Ireland, Blair said they agreed that the UN should play a "vital role" in the postwar reconstruction of Iraq, without elaborating. US officials cautioned, meanwhile, that it could take awhile to confirm whether Hussein was indeed a casualty. Separately, the Defense Department expressed regret at the death of a journalist with Reuters, and the wounding of at least five others, when a US tank fired on a Baghdad hotel.

Thirty-one antiwar protesters were arrested and a dozen were hurt, along with six bystanders, when police in Oakland, Calif., fired nonlethal weapons to disperse a rally outside the city's seaport Monday. It was one of the most violent such incidents since the Iraq war began. Police Chief Richard Word said some in the crowd threw rocks and started a fire, but pledged to review the use of projectiles.

Some 3,400 municipal workers in New York will be laid off by next month, the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) told unions Monday. It's part of an ongoing effort to slash costs with the city facing an estimated $3.4 billion budget gap for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The job losses will affect sanitation workers, corrections officers, and teacher aides, among others.

Police in Natchitoches, La., arrested a suspect in a shooting that killed one student and injured another Monday at a campus of the Louisiana Technical College. Police said alleged gunman Calvin Coleman was registered at the trade school but hadn't attended class in weeks.

Women's rights advocates challenging Augusta National Golf Club's membership policy will have to do so from half a mile away at this weekend's Masters Tournament. In two rulings Monday, a federal judge upheld the right of Augusta, Ga., to regulate protests and the sheriff's right to decide where it's safe to hold them. Activist Martha Burk, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and others pushing for the all-male club to admit women wanted to station demonstrators outside the front gates during the third round of the tournament Saturday.

Syracuse University won its first NCAA men's college basketball championship, 81-78, over the University of Kansas Monday night in New Orleans. "We played the best first half we could play, and then we just hung on," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. Freshman Carmelo Anthony was named the tournament's most valuable player.

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