USA

US Airways Group said Wednesday that it has made an $8 billion cash and stock offer to buy Delta Air Lines from creditors once the latter emerges from bankruptcy protection. That is expected by mid-2007. Delta, the third-largest US carrier, has said it intends to remain independent. Last month, it rejected feelers from United Airlines about a possible merger. Meanwhile, 970 flight attendants with Comair, a Delta subsidiary that also is emerging from bankruptcy, announced they had accepted a 7.5 percent pay cut in exchange for job protection.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops, meeting in Baltimore, encouraged parishioners to obey the church's widely ignored ban on artificial birth control, while reminding them that "to be a Catholic is a challenge" in a secularized society. In statements drafted over several years, the bishops also said that parishioners should welcome homosexuals without condoning their "disordered" sexuality.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the federal agency that insures private pensions, logged a deficit of $18.1 billion this year, down from $22.8 billion in 2005, it reported Wednesday.

Two former Seton Hall University roommates reached a plea agreement Wednesday on the day their trial was to begin in Newark, N.J., for setting a dorm fire in a "prank that got out of hand" and killed three students in 2000. They agreed to serve up to five years in prison on third-degree arson charges, rather than murder. The tragedy led the state to enact the nation's first dormitory sprinkler law.

The Boston Red Sox easily outbid all other major league teams by agreeing Tuesday to pay a record $51.1 million for the rights to negotiate with superstar Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. If the Red Sox are unable to sign the right- hander, the money will be refunded by his current team, Japan's Seibu Lions. Boston has 30 days to sign Matsuzaka, who struck out 200 batters this year.

The Los Angeles City Council has voted to replace the city's palm trees, a nonnative species, with oaks, sycamores, and other indigenous trees. The palms are dying off because of age and disease, arborists say. Residents and business owners may still buy and plant palms on their own properties.

A week after the Nov. 7 midterm elections, a recount was completed in Connecticut that confirmed Democrat Joe Courtney as the narrow winner over US Rep. Rob Simmons (R) in their House race. The original margin of victory was reduced from 167 votes to 91 out of roughly 250,000 cast. Above, voting machine results are reviewed in Ledyard, Conn.

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