USA

President Bush's call to speed the restoration of self-rule in Iraq does not mean US troops will be called out of the country anytime soon, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said, while traveling to Japan Sunday. The shifting of power "relates to the governance aspects of the country and not to the security aspects," Rumsfeld said, adding that the US will rotate a new contingent of troops into Iraq next year, with no final pullout date set.

Weeklong negotiations aimed at creation of the world's largest free-trade area opened in Miami, with representatives from 34 nations meeting alongside an estimated 20,000 protesters. The proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas would eliminate trade barriers among all Western Hemisphere nations, except Cuba, and create a bloc of 800 million people with an output of $14 trillion a year. To be able to compete with the US, Brazil is seeking subsidies and tariffs, which the Bush administration has said it will only discuss at a global, rather than regional, trade talks.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is being sworn in Monday as governor of California, where he faces immediate, tough decisions on how to address the state's record $10.7 billion budget deficit as well as cope with the aftermath of massive wildfires that devastated southern parts of the state. Lawmakers say a huge bond deal is likely, and expect Schwarzenegger (R) to call a special session of the state legislature Tuesday to consider ways to cut the deficit and reform the workers' compensation system.

Louisiana voters elected Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) as their first female governor Saturday. Blanco captured 52 percent of the vote, compared with 48 percent for conservative Bobby Jindal (R), an Indian-American who would have been the first non-white governor in the deep South since Reconstruction. Blanco said her final campaign appearance, during which she recounted the death of her son as the defining moment of her life, was key. "In a big campaign, people ... look for humanity," she said.

American shoppers kept a tight grip on their wallets in October as wholesale prices registered the largest jump since March. Analysts expect the dip to be a factor in slower but still healthy growth this quarter, and said the Federal Reserve will probably keep a key short-term interest rate at a 45-year low of 1 percent. Excluding sales at automobile dealerships and gas stations, however, all merchants saw a 0.4 percent increase last month.

A fire tore through an old mill in Pawtucket, R.I., Friday, forcing hundreds to flee. No serious injuries were reported. The cause has yet to be determined, but the mill was set to close soon to make way for a shopping mall.

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