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With concerns mounting over rising energy prices, President Bush was expected to lay out some of his ideas for addressing the issue in a speech to small- business leaders. According to administration officials, his agenda calls for encouraging the construction of new oil refineries on closed military bases and adding clean-burning diesel cars to the list of vehicles eligible for $2.5 billion in tax credits over the next 10 years. Bush also was expected to push for more regulatory "certainty" in getting natural gas terminals built by investing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with increased authority in often-controversial siting decisions.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R) of Illinois said he stands ready to "step back" on new ethics rules that Democrats contend are designed to shelter embattled majority leader Tom DeLay (R) of Texas. Hastert said he intended to send a letter to minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D) signaling his willingness to repeal the controversial rules changes. Hastert told fellow Republicans it was important to resolve the ethics committee deadlock because it was becoming a distraction as the party pursues its legislative goals.

Legislation aimed at helping parents shield their children from sex scenes, violence, and foul language in movie DVDs was signed into law by Bush. The bill gives legal protections to filtering technology that helps parents skip or mute sections of commercially produced DVDs.

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Terrorist attacks worldwide more than tripled last year, growing from 175 tallied by the US government in 2003 to a record 655 in 2004, according to figures shared with congressional aides at a private State Department briefing last week. The data were released after objections were raised that the information might be withheld from a congressionally mandated annual report on international terrorist incidents.

Short-term consumer confidence may be on the decline, but the dropoff isn't affecting the sale of new homes, the government said Tuesday. Although the Consumer Confidence Index fell in April (down 5.3 points), housing sales shot up 12.2 percent to the highest level in history, buoyed by continued low interest rates.

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