USA

A federal judge ruled Monday that the Guantánamo Bay military tribunals for terrorism suspects are unconstitutional. The opinion stems from 11 cases involving prisoners at the naval base in Cuba, where more than 500 "enemy combatants" - Al Qaeda suspects and accused Taliban fighters from Afghan-istan - have been held indefinitely. Bush administration attorneys have argued that the prisoners have no constitutional rights and that their lawsuits should be dismissed, as a different federal judge did in ruling on seven other cases on Jan. 19. The cases could be appealed to the US appeals court, and then ultimately to the Supreme Court.

The US-led provisional authority that administered Iraq after the 2003 invasion mismanaged $8.8 billion, according to a US auditing report released Sunday. The monies, handled by the Coalition Provisional Authority, included proceeds from Iraqi oil sales, frozen assets from foreign governments, and surpluses from the UN Oil for Food Program. Paul Bremer (above), the former chief administrator of the provisional authority, rejected the findings, which he said assume that it was possible immediately to implement Western-style budgeting and accounting procedures in the midst of a war.

Jury selection in the child molestation trial of pop music star Michael Jackson was to begin in Santa Maria, Calif, where more than 1,000 journalists are registered to cover the high-profile case. Jackson released a videotaped statement Sunday saying that leaks to the media about grand jury testimony contained false information and predicted he would be "acquitted and vindicated."

Boosted by a one-time, $3-per-share dividend from Microsoft Corp., personal income in the US jumped a record 3.7 percent in December and consumer spending rose 0.8 percent, the Commerce Depart- ment said Monday. While it is considered highly unusual for a dividend payment from a single company to have such a major impact on incomes, Microsoft is one of the most widely held US stocks. The size of the payment - $32 billion - rivaled the $38 billion the government paid out in federal income tax rebates in the summer of 2001.

Firefighting response time is worsening nationwide, results of a study by The Boston Globe showed. According to the findings, only 35 percent of fire departments meet a response standard established as a guideline in 2001. Based on records, twice that many full-time departments in 1986 were able to reach 90 percent of building fires within six minutes.

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