USA

The Bush administration unveiled a Central American free trade deal, with only four of five targeted countries - El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua - participating. Costa Rica refused to join the agreement, citing US demands to open its telecommunications and insurance industries to foreign competition. US officials say they hope to get Costa Rica on board before the Central American Free Trade Agreement goes to Congress in January. US sugar beet and sugar cane farmers fear the pact will cost American jobs.

A federal panel backed the over-the-counter sale of emergency contraception Tuesday, calling the "morning-after" pill "extraordinarily safe." Food and Drug Administration advisers said the pills should be sold without a doctor's prescription, amid critics' concerns that easier access to them could increase unsafe sex, particularly among teenagers. Proponents argue that wider use of the pill could cut in half the nation's 3 million unintended pregnancies each year and prevent hundreds of thousands of abortions. A final decision is expected in February.

A jury in Chesapeake, Va., began to consider whether accused sniper Lee Boyd Malvo was guilty of two murders or was a puppet of his convicted partner, John Muhammad, in the attacks that terrorized millions of Washington, D.C.-area residents last year. Malvo, who was 17 at the time, faces two murder charges; if convicted, he could receive a death sentence for his role in the shootings. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

US citizens classified as enemy combatants may be allowed lawyers only after providing intelligence, the Justice Department said Tuesday. Three officials said Bush administration policy properly balances national security and constitutional protections for those held in the war on terror. Critics argue that the policy treads on defendants' constitutional rights to quick access to an attorney and the courts.

Union leaders in southern California said they'll call for a nationwide boycott of Safeway supermarkets to support 70,000 clerks who have been on strike for two months. "We want to empty those stores," said Doug Dority, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers. Safeway and other chains are in a dispute with their unionized employees in southern California over the cost of health care coverage. Negotiations are scheduled to resume Friday.

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