USA

In the most partisan tally in recent history, the Senate voted 58-to-42 on Tuesday to confirm conservative federal appellate judge Samuel Alito as the newest justice of the Supreme Court. He replaces Sandra Day O'Connor, the first female justice and a swing vote on many issues.

Wages and benefits paid to civilian workers rose 3.1 percent last year, the smallest increase in nine years, the Labor Department said Tuesday. It said the escalating costs of health insurance and pensions are biting into employee compensation.

The rate at which Americans save money, which has fallen steadily for almost 20 years, dropped below zero to minus 0.5 percent in 2005, the Commerce Department reported. Not since the post-Depression years of 1932 and 1933 has the annual rate, which stood at 10.8 percent in 1984, entered negative territory. High housing prices, some analysts believe, have convinced people they don't need to save.

The government anticipates borrowing a record $188 billion during the January-March quarter - $42 billion more than the old mark set for the same period in 2004, the Treasury Department said. The timing of Medicare payments to health-maintenance organizations was cited as a major reason for the higher figure.

The Smithsonian Institution's Board of Regents selected a prime, five-acre site near the Washington Monument, on the National Mall, for construction of a National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum, first proposed in 1988, could open by 2016. Above, museum director Lonnie Burch meets with Smithsonian officials at the site selection announcement.

Kraft Foods, already in the midst of a major downsizing, said it will lay off an additional 8,000 employees, or 8 percent of its workforce, by the end of 2008. In all, the company plans to close 40 plants worldwide.

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