USA

John Roberts Jr. was confirmed as the 17th chief justice of the US by the full Senate Thursday morning and was to be sworn into office as the Monitor went to press. Despite the vows of some senior Democrats to wage "war" on his nomination by President Bush, the confirmation came by an overwhelming 78-22 vote, making him- at 50 - the youngest to hold the office in two centuries. He succeeds William Rehnquist, who died Sept. 3. After the vote, attention quickly shifted to Bush's choice for the Supreme Court seat being vacated by the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor, with speculation centering on White House counsel and former Bush personal attorney Harriet Miers.

Lawyers for US Rep. Tom DeLay (R) of Texas said they "want a trial right away" for the former House majority leader, who was indicted Wednesday for conspiracy in an alleged campaign financing scheme. Preferably, they want the charge, which DeLay vehemently denies, taken up by year's end. Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the majority whip, will fill DeLay's vacated post in the meantime. As recently as two weeks ago, the prosecutor in the case denied that DeLay was the target of his investigation.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it was upgrading its informal inquiry of a stock sale by Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R) of Tennessee to a formal insider-trading investigation. Frist sold his shares in HCA, a hospital operating company his family founded, two weeks before a disappointing earnings forecast.

Gov. George Pataki (R) of New York said Wednesday that plans to include an "international freedom center" as part of a memorial at the former World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan were being dropped because of controversy surrounding the proposal. Among the outspoken opponents of incorporating the center into the memorial are families who lost loved ones during the 9/11 terrorist attacks and who said the freedom center would dilute the sanctity of the place.

Brush fires whipped by the season's first Santa Ana winds were only 5 percent contained as they charred 7,000 acres of southern California. At least one home was destroyed, and forecasters were predicting more hot, dry weather, meaning the blazes probably would spread, The Los Angeles Times reported. Residents of five neighborhoods were ordered to evacuate.

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