USA

President Bush wraps up a two-day visit to the Gulf Coast region Tuesday, his eighth to assess the needs and reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. As part of a focus on housing - an estimated 350,000 families remain homeless - Bush was to participate in a Habitat for Humanity building project in Covington, La. The schedule also includes an appearance at a school reopening in Pass Christian, Miss. In other related developments:

• Twenty-nine passengers arrived in New Orleans over the weekend aboard an Amtrak train, the first form of mass ground transportation to return to the city.

• Hospitality industry enterprises trying to restart in New Orleans and on the Mississippi coast complained that laborers were in short supply because few low-wage workers have returned.

In something of a rebuke to fellow Republicans, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania defended Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers Sunday, telling ABC's "This Week" program, "What you've had here ... is not a rush to judgment; it's a stampede to judgment." But he also appeared to echo some complaints about Miers, whom Bush has named to succeed the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor, on grounds that she hasn't proven that she can handle the types of issues that come before the court. Specter said he hopes her confirmation hearings can be held before Thanksgiving.

No corroborating evidence has been found for a reported terrorist plot to attack New York's subways with remote-controlled bombs, federal and city officials said. A Homeland Security Department memo said such an attack might have been planned for Sunday. In response, thousands of extra police were assigned to the system and searches of passengers' bags were doubled. Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) said he didn't regret the extra precautions and had no immediate plans to stop them.

At least four deaths were blamed on unrelenting weekend-long rains that brought flooding, closed roads, power outages, and hundreds of evacuations to a region extending from North Carolina to New Hampshire. Still more rain was in the forecast for the early part of this week.

Prof. emeritus Thomas Schelling of the University of Maryland and Israeli-American Robert Aumann were named co-winners Monday of the 2005 Nobel Prize in economics for their work on game theories that help to explain trade and price wars and other conflicts.

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