USA

The Bush administration may keep secret the names of foreigners detained in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Supreme Court decided. The high court, without comment, refused to consider an appeal by civil liberties groups and news organizations, which had argued that refusal to disclose the names and other information on 700 detainees violated free-speech rights and federal law. Lower courts previously agreed with the government's contention that releasing the data could risk national security.

Front-runner Howard Dean defended his record on race as Democratic presidential candidates held their final debate Sunday before the Jan. 19 Iowa caucuses. Criticized by the Rev. Al Sharpton for having an all-white Cabinet while governor of Vermont, Dean responded: "I will take a back seat to no one in my commitment to civil rights." The debate, sponsored by the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum, was meant to focus on issues of interest to black and Latino voters. The candidates also took turns critiquing President Bush's proposal to grant temporary work permits to illegal immigrants who do jobs that Americans don't want.

Four days of secret talks broke off without progress on ending a strike by 70,000 workers at four supermarket chains in Southern California. The informal discussions, which concluded Sunday, were aimed at restarting formal negotiations with a federal mediator, union officials said. Plans by Kroger Co.'s Ralphs, Albertsons, and Safeway Inc.'s Vons and Pavilions stores to cut health benefits are a main sticking point. Most strikers lost their health insurance Jan. 1 and many have seen their payments from local unions cut as the labor dispute enters its fourth month.

A huge fire destroyed an entire block of the historic business district in Jeffersonville, Ind., Sunday. The blaze erupted at a paper warehouse and quickly spread, forcing the evacuation of dozens of houses. "This is like watching the Titanic sink," said one resident, Hal Sanders of the Rose Hill Neighborhood Association.

The NBC-TV sitcom "Friends" won two People's Choice Awards at the ceremony Sunday in Pasadena, Calif. The series, in its final season, took the favorite comedy category and its star, Jennifer Aniston, won most popular actress. Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts took movie actor and actress honors, respectively. "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" won top film.

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