USA

Jose Padilla, the Brooklyn-born Muslim convert suspected of plotting a "dirty bomb" terrorist attack in the US, was indicted on criminal charges by a federal grand jury in Miami. The step allows the Bush administration to meet next Monday's deadline, established by the Supreme Court, to file legal arguments against Padilla, who has been held in custody by the Defense Department as an "enemy combatant" for more than three years.

More than 80 percent of manufacturers report that a moderate to severe shortage of skilled employees is hindering their ability to meet customer demands, according to a report Tuesday by the National Association of Manufacturers. Technologically sophisticated factories are struggling to find a younger generation of machinists, technicians, and engineers to replace skilled workers entering retirement, the report said.

The Department of Agriculture awaited details from Canadian officials Tuesday on a case of bird flu in British Columbia before considering whether or how to scale back a ban on poultry imports from the province. Preliminary indications were that the virus was not the virulent form blamed for 60 deaths in Southeast Asia.

West Virginia's decision to buy land for disaster housing was called the nation's first such state plan by federal emergency officials, who said they'd like it to become a model. Although mobile home sites could be used in the case of national emergencies, West Virginia's main goal is to provide housing or housing space for people living in its flood-prone southern counties.

The Humane Society of the US sued the Agriculture Department in federal court in San Francisco Monday, alleging that poultry processors have been allowed to slaughter conscious animals while the birds are shackled upside down. The National Chicken Council called the suit a "publicity stunt" that is likely to be thrown out of court.

Prosecutors said they plan to drop abduction charges against suspected teenage killer David Ludwig of suburban Lancaster, Pa., after his girlfriend substantially confirmed that she fled with him willingly last week after he allegedly shot her parents in a dispute over visiting privileges. He still faces murder charges.

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