USA

Sentencing is scheduled Feb. 17 for Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, an American Muslim student convicted this week of joining Al Qaeda and plotting to assassinate President Bush. Abu Ali, who was raised in Falls Church, Va., could get life in prison. Jurors didn't believe his story about being forced into a confession by torturous Saudi security officers.

The criminal trial of terrorism suspect and former Chicago gang member Jose Padilla, who faces multiple terrorism-related charges, will begin sometime in September. After spending more than three years in a Navy brig in South Carolina, Padilla is expected to be transferred quickly from military custody to a federal jail in Miami. His case has become a test ground for the handling of enemy combatants. Padilla could face life in prison if a civilian court finds him guilty of supporting violent jihad overseas, a twist, since he long was suspected of plotting a "dirty bomb" attack in the US.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has extended the deadline from Dec. 1 to Jan. 7 for paying government subsidies to house hurricane Katrina and Rita evacuees in hotels. The reprieve affects about 46,000 families scattered among 10 states. People who miss the deadline will be moved into government-subsidized travel trailers, mobile homes, and apartments.

Louisiana lawmakers wrapped up a special 17-day session before Thanksgiving in which they approved nearly all the hurricane-recovery measures proposed by Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) to rebalance the state's deficit-riddled budget. Because of lost tax revenues, the legislators passed $600 million in spending cuts.

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority will designate an area at Giants Stadium for Muslims to pray as a response to an incident earlier this season in which five Muslim men, attending a football game, were detained for being in a security-sensitive area. The men said they'd been praying and felt singled out because of their faith.

Concerned about the lax safety record of budget bus companies operating in the Washington-to-Boston corridor, federal officials said they will step up surprise inspections, targeting specific curbside companies during the holiday travel season, The Washington Post reported. The strategy is a response to 500 safety-related violations found by a task in October.

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