USA

Federal law enforcement officials said an intense counterterrorism investigation has begun in hopes of tracking Al Qaeda terrorists who appeared to be planning attacks on major financial institutions in New York, Washington, and Newark, N.J. Despite a heavy security presence put in place at potential targets as the work week began, New Yorkers largely shrugged off terrorism alarms as they reported back to the financial district. The markets overcame early jitters to close with modest gains. Accompanied by her daughters to Manhattan's Citigroup Center, first lady Laura Bush thanked people for coming to work Monday, while in Washington police began setting up a security perimeter around key government buildings. Tuesday, Homeland Security Sec. Tom Ridge said terrorists who amassed information in 2000 and 2001 about key US financial buildings updated their surveillance as recently as January. Hundreds of their photos, sketches, and written documents came to light as a result of Pakistan's mid-July capture of a Muslim extremist.

A military hearing to determine if Pfc. Lynndie England should be court-martialed for posing with naked detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison was set to start Tuesday at Fort Bragg, N.C. Attorneys for the Army reservist claim England was only following orders from higher-ups to mock prisoners. Another reservist implicated in the scandal, Spc. Jeremy Sivits, pleaded guilty in May and was sentenced to a year in prison. The reserve unit that England and Sivits served with in Iraq was welcomed home Monday at Fort Lee Army base in Petersburg, Va. Despite the actions that ensnared seven company members, Capt. Donald J. Reese, commander of the 372nd Military Police Company, said, "We've done a lot of really, really good things."

Early Tuesday, NASA launched its first mission to Mercury since the mid-1970s. The MESSENGER spacecraft's journey to the tiny planet closest to the sun is expected to take 6-1/2 to 7 years. Scientists hope to learn more about the planet's composition. Focusing closer to home, American Mike Fincke and Russian Gennady Padalka conducted their third spacewalk in just over a month in order to perform maintenance on the international space station.

Capt. James Yee, the Muslim chaplain who was cleared in an espionage probe in March after being imprisoned for 76 days, said Monday that he has submitted a letter of resignation to the Army. Yee, who has been stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., since the court-martial proceedings ended, said officials had never apologized to him.

Adjusted for inflation, consumer spending fell 0.9 percent in June, the biggest plunge since September 2001, according to data in a Commerce Department report released Tuesday.

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