USA

Influenced by the soaring cost of energy, consumer prices rose 3.4 percent in 2005, the largest jump so far this century, the Labor Department reported Wednesday. Outside of the volatile energy and food sectors, however, inflation held steady at 2.2 percent, unchanged from 2004. The Federal Reserve's policy of incremental interest-rate hikes has helped keep a lid on inflation, analysts say.

The Food and Drug Administration published new guidelines Wednesday designed to provide doctors and patients with clear and concise labels on prescription drugs. Many of the small-print, complex legal warnings will be eliminated.

Americans living near the Canadian and Mexican borders will be able to acquire special electronic ID cards later this year that will facilitate frequent crossings, the Los Angeles Times reported. The plan was announced by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

US Sen. Trent Lott (R) of Mississippi ended months of speculation by announcing that he'll run for a fourth term. Lott, who lost his Gulf Coast home to hurricane Katrina, said his state, while recovering, is "hurting and needs help." The former majority leader lost the post in 2002 after making a comment perceived by critics to have pro-segregation overtones.

The city of New Orleans agreed to notify owners of hurricane- damaged homes of plans to bulldoze them. Depending on the severity, residents will have seven to 30 days to challenge the scheduled demolition.

A group of UCLA alumni trying to block "radical professors" from spreading their ideological views in the classroom is paying students up to $100 for evidence in the form of notes and tapes, The Los Angeles Times reported. The university says such actions violate its policy unless the professor consents.

After weather-related delays, NASA will try again Thursday to launch the unmanned New Horizons spacecraft on a nine-year voyage to Pluto, agency officials said.

Michael Fortier, the associate of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols who testified for the prosecution in the Oklahoma City bombing trial, will be released from prison Friday, according to letters received by family members of the 168 victims. Fortier was sentenced to 12 years behind bars for assisting in the 1995 plot to destroy the Murrah Federal Building. He is getting out more than a year early, probably because of good behavior and time served before his sentencing.

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