USA

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asserted that Congress had essentially authorized electronic surveillance of domestic terrorist suspects when it authorized the use of military force after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Many Democratic lawmakers have questioned the constitutionality of the eavesdropping, which came to light in a story by a New York Times reporter who has written a new book on the matter.

New York commuters anxiously awaited word on whether a full-blown transit strike will materialize Tuesday - the union-imposed deadline for negotiating a new contract. Although talks were planned Monday, no progress had been made as the Monitor went to press. If a citywide strike of bus and subway workers occurs, it would be the first since an 11-day walkout in 1980.

L. Tammy Duckworth became the latest of about a half dozen Iraq war veterans to throw her hat into the political ring as she formally launched her bid for the Illinois congressional seat vacated by retiring Henry Hyde (R). A helicopter pilot who lost her legs in a rocket-propelled grenade attack, Duckworth is running as a Democrat against two rivals in a March primary. She says her campaign will focus on healthcare, education, and the economy.

In its annual survey, the National Institute on Drug Abuse said cigarette smoking was down 1.7 to 2.8 percent for three age groups between grades 8 and 12. While pleased with the dropoff, the institute called the upward trend in the abuse of prescription painkillers "disturbing." Nearly 10 percent of 12th-graders reported using one popular painkiller.

After nearly three months of falling gas prices, the weighted average price for all grades rose 8 cents to $2.24 by last week, the Lundberg Survey said in announcing its semimonthly data. The average price of self-serve regular: $2.21 a gallon.

Movie theater attendance is headed for its third straight annual decline, a skid unlike any in the last 40 years, The Los Angeles Times reported. Exhibitor Relations Inc., which keeps movie-going statistics, says North American attendance in 2005 is down more than 6 percent from last year, fueling industry concerns about a dropoff in multiplex appeal. Universal Pictures' remake of "King Kong" fell far short of projected opening weekend receipts last week, when it did an estimated $50.1 million in business, about half what some hoped.

Limited service on the famous New Orleans streetcars was restored Sunday for the first time since hurricane Katrina halted service Aug. 29. Six of 35 trolley cars from the 170-year-old St. Charles Ave. line began running, albeit on a different route.

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