USA

President Bush on Wednesday nominated White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, who helped shape the administration's controversial legal strategy in the war on terror, to be attorney general. He would be the first Hispanic to serve as the nation's top law enforcement officer. A Harvard-educated attorney whose parents were migrant workers, Gonzales would succeed Attorney General John Ashcroft, who resigned on Tuesday along with Commerce Secretary Donald Evans. Gonzales's political career has flourished under Bush's patronage over the past decade, since Bush was governor of Texas.

Federal authorities lowered the terror alert status for areas around financial institutions in New York, Washington, and Newark, N.J., saying Wednesday that additional security precautions had reduced the threat. Lowering the threat level from orange (high) to yellow (medium) comes three months after the alert was raised because of concerns the institutions and the areas around them could be Al Qaeda targets.

A new Smithsonian Institution exhibition that pays tribute to the service and sacrifice of the nation's battle-worn men and women opened yesterday (Veterans Day) in Washington. The National Museum of American History exhibit includes more than 800 artifacts, from the French and Indian War to the current global fight against terrorism and the conflict in Iraq. In Alabama, meanwhile, Kyle Phillips and his father, Naval Reserves Lt. Cmdr. Alan Phillips, visited a veterans memorial in Birmingham.

A jury of Marine Corps officers on Wednesday found the commander of the Marine detention facility at Camp Whitehorse in southern Iraq guilty of maltreatment and dereliction of duty in connection with the death of an Iraqi prisoner. Maj. Clarke Paulus of Buckingham, Pa., was dismissed from the service, but will receive no jail time and was acquitted of the most serious charge of assault and battery.

In its latest increase in short-term interest rates, the Federal Reserve moved the federal funds rate by one-quarter of a percentage point to 2 percent on Wednesday. Encouraged by the economy's performance, the Fed may bump up interest rates again in December - a fifth time this year - and will continue to tighten credit in 2005, economists predict.

California High Speed Rail Authority officials unveiled a tentative map Wednesday of routes for a proposed statewide bullet train - a $35 billion, 700-mile project they hope to begin building in 2008.

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