USA

A report by the UN Commission of Human Rights recommends that the US close its Guantán-amo Bay, Cuba, jail for suspected terrorists "without further delay." A US diplomatic spokesman said it was unfortunate the authors had not visited the facility, but they said they hadn't because they had been refused private interviews with detainees. Meanwhile, newly released images of abuse by US military guards at Abu Ghraib prison threatened to inflame tension over the handling of detainees in Iraq.

Thirty-one Senate Democrats requested that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales remove himself from the investigation of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. In a letter to Gonzales Thursday, the lawmakers said "...the appearance of conflict looms large" because of his previous service as White House counsel and close connection with administration officials.

Unusually warm weather was a major factor in the biggest one-month housing construction surge since 1973, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Starts on new houses and apartments in January shot up 14.5 percent, it said. But analysts said they anticipate a dropoff as a five-year housing boom cools.

As part of a supplemental budget request, President Bush will ask Congress for an additional $4.2 billion to help repair and rebuild Louisiana houses battered by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The request, which requires congressional backing, is conditional on Louisiana submitting a federally approved statewide recovery plan.

The Food and Drug Administration spelled out which whole-grain foods are in a long-awaited definition that serves as a guide for marketers and nutrition-minded consumers. Whole-grain foods must contain bran, endo-sperm, and germ, but not large amounts of refined grains. If the definition becomes permanent, many companies may have to change their product labels.

Four former executives of American International Group and General Re pleaded not guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges in a case brought by the Justice Department. The defendants allegedly attempted to inflate AIG's stock price using a sham reinsurance transaction.

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