USA

President Bush is expected to lift controversial steel tariffs within the week, bowing to threats of retaliation from Europe and Asia, White House officials said. But analysts said ending them 16 months ahead of schedule to comply with a World Trade Organization ruling could spark a political backlash against Bush in next year's presidential election in pivotal steel-producing states. Bush aides say the tariffs have already served much of their purpose by giving the steel industry time to consolidate operations and become more competitive. Administration officials concluded that lifting them would boost Bush's standing with small manufacturers.

The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether federal agents may sneak into foreign countries to arrest suspected criminals and bring them to the US for trial. The case is based on the abduction of a Mexican national implicated in the torture and deaths of two federal agents in 1985. The administration argues that the government needs authority to covertly kidnap suspects oversees in order to bring fugitives such as Osama bin Laden to justice. In a separate case, the justices declined to review a lower-court ruling that upheld California's ban on assault weapons and declared there is no constitutional right to own a gun.

An Army colonel who directed the collection of intelligence from prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been charged with illegally removing classified material, the Washington Post reported. U.S. Army Col. Jackie D. Farr, a reservist who completed a six-month tour at Guantanamo, is the fourth serviceman at the base accused of security violations.

Construction spending in October registered its best month on record, and the nation's manufacturers experienced a big leap in activity in November, a pair of encouraging signs that the economic recovery has staying power. The Commerce Department reported that the total value of building projects came in at $922 billion, representing a 0.9 percent increase from the previous month. Manufacturing activity grew in November for the fifth month in a row.

US Rep. Bill Janklow (R) of South Dakota was expected to go on trial as the Monitor went to press. The former governor is charged with manslaughter in a car accident that killed a motorcyclist in August. Janklow, who has a history of motor vehicle citations, is also charged with speeding, running a stop sign, and reckless driving. If convicted, he could face 10 years in prison and an investigation by the House ethics committee.

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