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In a letter released Monday, 18 House Democrats called for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to open an inquiry into the legality of the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program. The lawmakers claim their efforts to have the Justice and Defense departments examine the conduct of the program have been stymied by the White House. Meanwhile, Sen. Arlen Specter (R) of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has drafted a measure that would require court approval every 45 days to continue the surveillance of suspected terrorists. A secret intelligence court would have to verify the legitimacy of spying targets.

A classified American military study obtained by The New York Times reveals that German intelligence provided US commanders with a copy of Saddam Hussein's plans to protect Baghdad a month before the 2003 US-led coalition invasion. The document offered more help to the US than the German government has previously acknowledged.

Sales of new single-family homes dropped 5 percent in January, the second dip in three months, the Commerce Department reported Monday. The median price of new homes, however, rose almost 4 percent to $238,100.

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Forty Hispanic and black inmates at California's San Quentin State Prison were involved in a racially motivated weekend riot that led to one injury, officials said. The incident was the latest example of racial tensions boiling over in the state's prisons and jails. Most of the recent violence has occurred in the Los Angeles County jail system.

Two-thirds of the $3 billion raised by charities to aid residents of the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast has been spent on short-term needs, according to a Washington Post survey. The paper said that leaves $1 billion to address long-term needs, including rebuilding homes, job training, and counseling.

A federal judge in Washington blocked the Defense Department Monday from rolling out a new merit pay system, saying it would erode the collective bargaining rights of 650,000 unionized employees. The Pentagon considers the change critical to improving management of the department's civilian workforce.

FBI tests revealed that a powdery substance found in a University of Texas dormitory is not the poisonous chemical ricin, as first suspected. But the FBI did not identify the powder, which was discovered by a student as she was doing her laundry.

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