USA

The Senate unanimously approved an additional $82 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan and combating terrorism worldwide on Tuesday, boosting the cost of the global effort since 2001 to more than $300 billion. The House easily approved the measure last week, which now goes to President Bush for his signature. Most of the money - $75.9 billion - is slated for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, while $4.2 billion goes to foreign aid and other international relations programs. The emergency spending package is the fifth of its kind passed by Congress since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

A federal bankruptcy judge approved United Airlines' plan to terminate its employees' pension plans on Tuesday, clearing the way for the largest corporate-pension default in American history. The ruling shifts responsibility for United's four defined-benefit plans to the government's pension agency. That will save the carrier an estimated $645 million a year, part of the $2 billion in annual savings it says it needs to line up enough financing to emerge from bankruptcy. United's unions have hinted that strikes are possible to protest the benefit reductions.

After a day of questioning, police in Zion, Ill., arrested recently released prisoner Jerry Hobbs on murder charges Tuesday in the Mother's Day stabbings of his 8-year-old daughter and the little girl's best friend. The girls were stabbed repeatedly after they went biking in a park. Hobbs had led police to the bodies just off a wooded path early Monday, claiming he spotted them while searching for his daughter.

The US trade deficit fell sharply in March to the lowest level in six months as US exports climbed to an all-time high and the surge of textile shipments from China slowed, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. The gap between US imports and what it sells to foreign countries narrowed by 9.2 percent in March to $54.99 billion, down from the record monthly deficit of $60.57 billion set in February.

A Garner Valley, Calif., investigator for the district attorney's office was found dead Tuesday in his sprawling ranch home along with five other people, including his three children, who were all shot to death in their beds in the middle of the night, authorities said. Sheriff Bob Doyle said detectives have not reached any conclusions about the slayings, but they had not ruled out a murder-suicide.

Indiana adopted one of the toughest new laws in the country Tuesday to combat the spread of illegal meth labs. Many stores will be required to keep cold medicines in a locked case or behind a counter if they contain ingredients used to make methamphetamine. Customers will be limited to 3 grams of the medicines per week and must show ID and sign a logbook. Oklahoma, which has a similar law, has seen a dramatic reduction in meth production.

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