USA

The White House said Wednesday that President Bush did not know about the pending $6.8 billion sale of shipping operations at six major US seaports until after his administration approved the controversial deal. The transaction has elicited a strong backlash from both Democrats and Republicans opposed, on security grounds, to allowing a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates to operate ports that could be prime terrorist targets. Bush has pledged to veto any bill Congress might approve to block the agreement.

Three Middle Eastern men who had lived in Toledo, Ohio, within the past year pleaded not guilty in federal courts in Cleveland and Toledo of plotting terrorist attacks. The FBI had tracked the defendants for about a year and a half. Mohammad Zaki Amawi, a citizen of both the US and Jordan, was accused of threatening to kill or injure Bush. Along with Marwan Othman El-Hindi and Wassim Mazloum, Amawi also was charged with conspiracy to kill Americans in Iraq and other countries.

California prison officials called off the scheduled execution of murderer-rapist Michael Morales at San Quentin for a second time Tuesday, delaying it until at least early May. The timing depends on a formal court hearing about the constitutionality of the state's lethal- injection method of execution. The prison did not carry out the death sentence because no licensed medical professional was willing to administer a fatal dose of barbituate, as a federal court ordered in seeking to ensure the punishment was not "cruel."

Alaska moved closer to realizing plans to develop a $20 billion gas pipeline to the Midwest with an agreement on a tax proposal to fund the long-awaited project. Three major oil companies and state officials now support the call for a 20 percent tax on oil company profits, rather than the original 25 percent tax rate.

At the site of the longest drug-smuggling tunnel ever found on the US-Mexico border, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California announced legislation to make constructing such passages a federal crime. The idea, she said, is to "throw the book" at those who dig or finance them.

San Francisco, a leader in urban recycling, announced plans for a first-in-the-nation experiment to convert dog waste, collected in a popular park, into energy.

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