USA

Security problems could delay US plans to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqi people, Secretary of State Powell told the House International Relations Committee. His comments were the latest administration hint that the July 1 target date for handing over power might need to be revised in light of the recent suicide bombings in Baghdad.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, joined a bipartisan chorus critical of job-outsourcing comments by the administration's chief economic adviser, George Mankiw. Earlier this week, Mankiw said the growing trend by employers to transfer jobs to other countries was "a new way of doing international trade." Hastert said the remark failed to acknowledge a basic economic tenet, that "an economy suffers when jobs disappear," as an estimated 2.2 million have since President Bush took office.

Federal prosecutors were prepared to seek grand jury indictments against a California nutritional supplements lab suspected of supplying athletes with banned substances. In going after the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative and its founder, no indictments of client athletes will be sought for now, law-enforcement sources said.

Automobile sales dropped sharply in January, but overall retail sales fell only 0.3 percent as other goods made their strongest gain (0.9 percent) in five months, the Commerce Department reported.

Infant mortality in the US rose for the first time since 1958, according to statistics (for 2002) compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. A CDC spokeswoman said the data came as a surprise, adding, "You're always concerned when an important indicator in public health increases." Among possible explanations cited: more doctor-induced labor and the use of fertility drugs that often lead to riskier multiple births.

The highly watched homosexual marriage debate of the Massachusetts constitutional convention entered its second day with lawmakers struggling to find an acceptable compromise. Although the state supreme court has insisted on a law sanctioning same-sex marriages by mid-May, legislators are considering a constitutional amendment that would authorize civil unions, but not marriages, between such couples. Above, supporters on both sides of the issue fill the State House halls in Boston.

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