USA

President Bush, already in the throes of declining public approval, was preparing Tuesday to ask Congress for about $2 billion more to repair and strengthen levees in and around New Orleans. The spending request would be tacked onto a $106.5 billion bill that includes provisions for Iraq, hurricane Katrina reconstruction, drought relief, avian flu prevention, and aid for Gulf Coast fisheries. The bill will reach the Senate floor this week, where it is expected to pass.

Consumers shrugged off higher gasoline prices in April and sent a widely watched barometer of consumer confidence to its highest level in almost four years. The New York-based Conference Board said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to 109.6, up from 107.5 in March. April's reading was the highest since the index touched 110.3 in May 2002. The Conference Board also warned that a continued rise in fuel prices would cast a pall on consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of US economic activity.

California's Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamente and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have both received death threats during the continuing national debate over immigration. "That is not what California stands for," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) said Monday while announcing the incidents. Both politicians have been vocal in their opposition to proposed national laws that would make illegal immigration a felony rather than a civil offense.

Rabbi Moses Teitelbaum, who died Monday, was the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Satmar sect of Judaism. Between 5,000 and 10,000 devotees crowded Teitelbaum's funeral early Tuesday morning at a local village synagogue and later at the Satmar cemetery in Kiryas Joel, N.Y. Members of the Satmar sect, like some traditional Hasidic Jews, oppose the state of Israel, believing instead that a Jewish state must follow the return of the Messiah.

A California state Assembly committee approved a bill that would levy a 2 percent tax on oil company revenues that exceed $10 million. "The only thing I can think of why prices are going up is pure and simple greed," said Assemblyman Johan Klehs, the bill's sponsor. The proceeds from the proposed tax law, which will head to the full Assembly pending approval by the Appropriations Committee, would go toward a senior citizen prescription-drug benefit.

A lawyer for Mary McCarthy, who was fired from the CIA for leaking information to the media, said Monday that his client is innocent. The attorney said McCarthy hopes to clear the allegations before formally retiring from the spy agency. The CIA terminated McCarthy on Thursday for allegedly revealing information about secret prisons in Eastern Europe for terrorist suspects.

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