USA

The Bush administration is preparing plans for possible lifetime detention of suspected terrorists, including hundreds the government lacks evidence to charge in court, The Washington Post reported Sunday. Citing intelligence, defense, and diplomatic officials, the newspaper said the Pentagon and the CIA had asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for those it would not set free or turn over to courts at home or abroad. Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," however, Sen. Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, called the plan "a bad idea" and urged taking "a very careful, constitutional look at this."

With global attention on the US response to the Asian tsunami disaster, President Bush raised an earlier American contribution tenfold late last week, pledging $350 million. In other related developments:

• Secretary of State Powell and the president's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has experience with hurricane cleanups, flew to the region Sunday to lead a delegation of experts seeking to make a firsthand assessment.

• The US set up a support center in Thailand and moved to position the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to help in generating clean water and support other relief efforts.

• The president signed a proclamation calling for US flags to be flown at half-staff this week. He also urged Americans willing to donate money to do so online, by accessing the USA FreedomCorps website at www.usafreedomcorps.gov.

The Justice Department released a rewritten legal memo late last week on what constitutes torture, backing away from its own assertions prior to the Iraqi prison abuse scandal that torture had to involve "excruciating and agonizing pain." The new 17-page document said torture violates US and international law.

Big cities were less deadly places to live in 2004 as murder rates declined in several urban areas, including New York, Washington, and Chicago, where it dropped nearly 25 percent, according to a survey by the Associated Press. Exceptions to the trend were St. Louis, Detroit and Baltimore. Experts agree that police deserve credit for driving down murders by placing more officers on the street. But they add that other factors, including a growing adult population less prone to violence, are in play.

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