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President Bush left Washington for Friday's start of the Summit of the Americas in Argentina, hoping to convince almost three dozen other hemispheric leaders that free trade can play a role in creating jobs and reducing poverty. But Bush was all but assured a frosty reception. Thousands of demonstrators gathered to protest his arrival Thursday. His appearance also could be made prickly by leftist President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who is expected to challenge Bush's push to establish unfettered free trade and a huge new trade zone stretching from Alaska to the southern tip of South America. Chávez has called the proposal "dead."

In US District Court in Washington on Thursday, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, pleaded not guilty to charges that he lied to investigators and a grand jury in the scandal surrounding a CIA analyst's leaked identity. Libby was accompanied by an expanded defense team.

At the invitation of the Chinese government, Bush will travel to Beijing Nov. 19-21 for the first time since 2002, the White House announced. The visit will occur as US concerns mount about China's drive to lock up global supplies of oil and raw materials. The president will also make stops in Japan, South Korea, and Mongolia.

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As part of their first formal trip together to the US, Britain's Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, were the guests of honor at a state dinner Wednesday in the White House. The royal couple are spending three days in Washington, visiting the National Building Museum and the Second World War Memorial, among other places. Stops also are planned in New Orleans and San Francisco.

A New Jersey state jury cleared pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. of allegations that it failed to warn consumers about the risks of its Vioxx painkiller. The company was found guilty in an earlier product-liability case and faces 6,500 similar suits.

At the conclusion of a week of remembrance, 4,000 civil rights leaders, political dignitaries, and noted singers filled the pews of Detroit's Greater Grace Temple church for the funeral of Rosa Parks, whose defiant act on a segregated Montgomery, Ala., city bus in 1955 changed the course of history. Parks and her husband moved to Detroit in 1957.

Engineers studying the New Orleans levees that failed after hurricane Katrina hit Aug. 29 told a Senate committee Wed-nesday that corruption may have played a role in the flawed construction of at least two levees, The Los Angeles Times reported.

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