USA

Before Wednesday's scheduled visit to the Gulf Coast, President Bush received assurances from the Army Corps of Engineers that levees around New Orleans were on track to be restored by the next hurricane season. According to the corps, 100 of 169 miles damaged by hurricane Katrina in late August have been fixed, with no construction shortcuts. On Monday, Bush signed legislation to extend unemployment benefits by another 13 weeks for at least 165,000 people affected by Katrina and, later, by hurricane Rita.

Gov. Mike Rounds (R) of South Dakota signed legislation that all but bans abortion in the state and said he expects a lengthy legal battle over the law. Supporters believe the US Supreme Court's new makeup makes it more inclined to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortions.

US Rep. Bill Thomas (R) of California, who joined Congress in 1979, said he won't seek reelection but will leave office at the end of the year. As chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Thomas has been instrumental in pushing through some of the Bush administration's tax and trade priorities. According to GOP rotation rules, he must relinquish the chairmanship.

Communications giant AT&T, which is in the midst of trimming its workforce by 13,000 jobs, said it expects to lay off an additional 10,000 employees by 2009 as the result of its newly announced $65 billion purchase of BellSouth.

Dana Reeve, who died Monday in White Plains, N.Y., was admired for her unwavering devotion to paralyzed husband and former Hollywood "Superman" Christopher Reeve.

The next cycle of solar flares that are potentially disruptive to radio transmissions and satellite communication will be 30 to 50 percent more intense than the last cycle, according to new computer models. Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research said the cycle is expected to begin in late 2007 or early 2008. The last cycle peaked in 2001.

Union workers with the Chicago Transit Authority, the nation's second largest transit system, voted Tuesday to authorize a strike, but set no date for a walkout. Salaries and bus driver work rules are at issue.

Baseball Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, who died Monday in Phoenix, spent his entire 12-year major-league career with the Minnesota Twins. Before his retirement in 1995, the stocky center fielder led the Twins to two World Series titles and compiled a .318 career batting average.

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