USA

The Supreme Court will consider ending the execution of teenage killers, its justices said Monday, revisiting whether the practice violates the Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment." Two years ago the high court abolished executions for the mentally retarded; next term it will take up the case of a Missourian who was 17 when he robbed a woman and threw her off a railroad bridge. A 4-to-3 Missouri Supreme Court decision overturned his sentence and gave him life in prison, declaring it unconstitutional to execute him.

John Kerry appeared poised to win Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, with several opinion polls Monday showing the Massachusetts senator leading Howard Dean by between 11 and 21 points. In each, Wesley Clark, John Edwards, and Joe Lieberman tied for third place. Voters were expected to face bracing cold as they headed for the primary, however, and analysts said the weather could diminish turnout. Meanwhile, South Carolina polls suggest Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina may win there Feb. 3, blunting Kerry's momentum.

The federal deficit will hit a record $477 billion this year and grow worse if lawmakers cut taxes or increase spending, the Congressional Budget Office said in a report certain to become ammunition in the election year fight over spending. In its annual winter outlook, the nonpartisan analyst also estimated the deficit would ease to $362 billion in 2005 and that deficits for the decade ending in 2013 would total $2.4 trillion. The deficit hit $375 billion in 2003, the highest yet in dollar terms; the previous record was $290 billion in 1992.

Seventeen couples registered in the first hour that the nation's first voter-created domestic partner registry was open Monday. For a $50 fee, the Ohio registry gives gay and straight unmarried couples official recognition as partners, although it is not binding on courts, governments, or employers. Advocates cheer the move as a step toward same-sex unions; opponents argue it will undermine marriage. The Cleveland Heights registry opened less than a week after the Ohio Legislature passed one of the most far-reaching bans on same-sex marriage.

Snow and freezing rain barreled across the Great Lakes, mid- Atlantic, and Midwest Monday, a day after winter storms further south left roads treacherous and at least 16 people dead in ice-related accidents. In Middletown, Ohio, Sunday, some residents took solace in sledding.

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