USA

President Bush was to call for the creation of a lunar base and for a manned trip to Mars in a widely promoted space-policy address at NASA headquarters. Administration officials said he would ask Congress to increase NASA's budget by $1 billion over five years to fund the decades-long initiative. Part of the money would come from retiring the aging space shuttles by 2010 and from wrapping up US work on the International Space Station. The speech came as NASA scientists readied the rover, Spirit, to start exploring the surface of Mars Thursday.

Enron ex-finance chief Andrew Fastow (below) and his wife, Lea, were to plead guilty to federal charges related to the energy trader's massive collapse, after their lawyers reportedly resolved a dispute with a judge in Houston on sentencing for Lea Fastow. Andrew Fastow was expected to receive a 10-year sentence and a fine of at least $20 million. While it wasn't clear whether he agreed to testify against his former bosses, legal experts said he could be pivotal to any case against ex-chairman Kenneth Lay and ex-chief executive Jeffrey Skilling. Neither of them has been charged.

The US trade deficit shrank to $38 billion in November as exports jumped to a three-year high of $90.6 billion, fueled by sales of civilian aircraft, the Commerce Department reported. "With the falling dollar, foreigners are looking at the value of US capital equipment," said Kurl Karl, chief economist with Swiss Re in New York. Despite the unexpected monthly narrowing, the annual trade gap grew to a record $446.8 billion - without counting December.

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Broadening its investigation of the mutual-fund industry, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said it found 14 of 15 main brokerages that sell mutual funds took payments from funds investment advisors, and two-thirds of those firms accepted money in the form of commissions on trades. Most of the brokerages appeared to promote the funds more vigorously without adequately disclosing the potential conflict of interest to customers, the SEC said. The agency was set to propose stricter disclosure rules in response.

Federal investigators were summoned to the scene of a deadly crash on I-95 in Elkridge, Md., Tuesday afternoon. But police said it was too early to tell what caused a tanker truck to plunge from an overpass onto the northbound lane of the highway. The resulting explosion killed five people and halted travel on the main north-south East Coast route for hours.

A truck driver is expected to face charges after plowing into a school bus near Maxton, N.C., killing a kindergartner and injuring her mother and a dozen other children. Police said Gary Garnett, who also was hospitalized, told them he was trying to find his cellphone at the time of the accident.

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