USA

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan delivered a favorable report on the economy in testimony before the Senate Banking Committee. "All told," he said, "the economy seems to have entered 2005 expanding at a reasonably good pace, with inflation and inflation expectations well-anchored." He didn't indicate whether incremental increases of the short-term interest rates would continue, but said the official federal funds rate "remains fairly low." Meanwhile, the Commerce Department reported that construction of new homes and apartments, spurred by low mortgage rates, rose 4.7 percent in January, the highest level in more than two decades.

A jury in Charleston, S.C., convicted Christopher Pittman Tuesday for killing his grandparents three years earlier in a first-of-its-kind case against a juvenile that essentially placed a drug on trial too. The 15-year-old's defense for shooting his sleeping grandparents, who'd punished him for choking a younger student on a school bus, was that Zoloft, an anti- depressant, had clouded his sense of right and wrong. Pittman (above) was sentenced to 30 years in prison on each count, to be served concurrently. A Zoloft defense has been attempted in at least three adult cases, with mixed results.

US intelligence officials laid out their concerns about Al Qaeda and Iran during an annual Senate briefing about threats around the globe. CIA Director Porter Goss said it may be only a matter of time before Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups attempt further attacks in the US, using chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons. Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said he believes Iran will continue to support terrorism in the Middle East.

ChoicePoint Inc., a consumer information company that keeps credit histories and other personal data on millions of Americans, said Tuesday it was sending letters to as many as 35,000 Californians, alerting them of a security breach. California is the only state that requires such disclosures. The company is trying to determine whether consumers outside California were affected. One suspect has been detained in Los Angeles County.

The Transportation Security Administration offered no comment on why, as congressionally mandated, it was not meeting Tuesday's deadline for banning airline passengers from boarding with butane lighters. Congress acted to establish a ban last year on lighters.

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