USA

Countering recent news reports suggesting a dark cloud is lingering over the economy, President Bush said in his weekly radio address Saturday that it "is headed in the right direction, and we can be confident of better days ahead." Last week, unemployment reported at a nine-year high of 6.4 percent while the White House projected a record $455 billion deficit this year. Also Saturday, Bush ended two days of fund-raising in Texas that generated more than $7 million and propelled his reelection campaign war chest over the $40 million mark. Above, the president and first lady Laura Bush arrive at an event in Houston.

Embattled California Gov. Gray Davis (D) tried to galvanize allies against an apparently inevitable recall election. Speaking at a "unity rally" with other prominent state Democrats Saturday, Davis cast the effort against him as a Republican power grab. The rally preceded Wednesday's deadline for counties to report how many recall signatures recall organizers have submitted.

In a case that may tarnish the career of one of the National Basketball Association's brightest stars, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers was charged Friday with sexually assaulting a female employee at an exclusive Colorado spa. Bryant denied the charge, fighting back tears at a news conference, but admitted he was guilty of adultery. "I didn't force her to do anything against her will; I'm innocent," he said, sitting next to his wife, Vanessa. (Story, page 3.)

An Arab-American FBI agent took the agency to court, accusing it of racial discrimination for freezing him out of the investigation into the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The suit filed Friday at the US District Court for the District of Columbia describes Bassem Youssef as the only polygraph examiner qualified to conduct interviews in Arabic. Yet, the complaint said, he was kept away from substantial investigations related to the attacks.

Legislation that would allow local school districts to lower property taxes by using $1 billion in projected revenue from legalized slot machines won bipartisan approval in Pennsylvania's House of Representatives Saturday after a marathon debate. While opponents conceded that the measure would ultimately pass, they presented a range of amendments that the bill's supporters said were intended to thwart gambling expansion. The measure would legalize 11 slot machine parlors.

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