USA

The Supreme Court said it would resolve confusion over lower-court rulings about the constitutionality of displaying monuments or framed copies of the Ten Commandments on government property. The justices will hear an appeal early next year involving displays in Kentucky and Texas. In the Texas case, they will determine whether a monument on the Capitol grounds is an impermissible endorsement of religion under the First Amendment.

With the presidential candidates neck and neck in the polls, the pressure is expected to be intense for Wednesday night's final debate in Tempe, Ariz. It will focus on domestic issues. In a last-minute flurry of broadsides, Sen. John Kerry tried to link President Bush to record-high oil prices while the president charged that his Democratic opponent has totally misunderstood the war on terror.

Four days after the House gave its approval, the Senate easily passed a sweeping tax bill, which provides $136 billion in new breaks for businesses and $10.1 billion to buy out tobacco farmers' government quotas. The vote was 66-14. The package, the most sweeping overhaul of corporate tax law since 1986, now goes to the president, who is expected to sign it. It was seen as must-pass legislation because it repeals a $5 billion annual subsidy for exporters that has been ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization. Manufacturers will see their tax rate lowered from 35 percent to 32 percent, and companies operating overseas will benefit from a targeted $43 billion reduction. The bill also allows tobacco growers to leave the business with dignity or remain in it and better compete in a market freed from a quota system that dates back to the Great Depression.

About 850,000 low-income college students who were eligible for federal financial aid did not bother to apply, according to findings of a new study released Monday by the American Council on Education. The study, which looked at undergraduates enrolled in 1999-2000 at institutions participating in federal aid programs, underscored that students often miss aid opportunities because they aren't aware of how the system works.

Although an accident investigation could take as long as three months to complete, a federal investigator said Monday that the driver of a tour bus who was killed along with 13 passengers over the weekend in Arkansas apparently had been driving all night without a backup. Sixteen others were hurt in the accident. The bus overturned when it missed a curve near Memphis, Tenn., on a trip that originated in Chicago. The destination was a gambling casino in Mississippi.

Although still listed in serious condition Monday eight days after her crashed car was found at the bottom of a 200-foot ravine in Redmond, Wash., teenager Laura Hatch was said to be in "amazing shape." She had been missing since Oct. 2, when last seen at a party, and was almost given up for dead until a friend spied her crumpled Toyota Camry, which apparently shot between two guardrails on a steep, winding road in suburban Seattle.

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