USA

In El Paso, Texas, Tuesdat, President Bush continues a two-day swing, begun in Tucson, Ariz., to pitch his strategy for dealing with illegal immigration along the Mexican border. His focus is on beefed-up security and a guest-worker proposal that would allow an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants to register and work, largely as low-wage manual laborers, for up to six years.

The Supreme Court decided Monday to let stand a sentence that Shawn Gementera must spend a day outside a San Francisco post office wearing the signboard, "I stole mail; this is my punishment." Gementera pleaded guilty to stealing letters in 2001 but argued that the signboard violates statutes against cruel and unusual punishment. The high court also rejected an appeal by a fired FBI linguist and directed an appeals court to reconsider its decision to erase the conviction of British-American citizen Kenneth Richey, whose case involving an Ohio fire that killed a toddler 20 years ago has received international attention. In an odd occurrence, a chunk of marble fell from the court's facade Monday, landing near tourists. No one was injured.

Faced with thousands of liability lawsuits linked to its recalled painkiller Vioxx, pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. said it will cut 7,000 jobs by the end of 2008. The 11 percent workforce reduction and five plant closings should save the company $4 billion, it said.

In the latest sign that the housing boom has subsided, sales of existing homes and condominiums fell by 2.7 percent in October, the National Association of Realtors reported. The median sales price of $218,000, however, was up 16.6 percent over the previous year.

Time magazine reported in its Dec. 5 issue that a second staffer, reporter Viveca Novak, has been asked to testify in the CIA leak case by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Time's Matthew Cooper previously testified in the investigation. Fitz-gerald, who has vowed to continue the case after indicting I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's former chief of staff, wants Novak to testify about her conversations with the attorney for Bush strategist Karl Rove.

According to results of a new poll, 70 percent of Americans believe that Democratic senators hurt US troop morale with their criticism of the administration's Iraq war policies, The Washington Post reported. The poll was conducted by RT Strategies.

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