USA

A Pentagon panel led by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is likely to recommend a hybrid plan to improving the situation in Iraq, The Washington Post reported Monday, citing senior defense officials. The panel reportedly rejected either pulling out of Iraq or sending more troops in favor of a third option, dubbed "Go Longer" by insiders. This entails reducing the force size after a short-term buildup, but then staying longer.

The Conference Board research group said Monday that its index of economic indicators rose 0.2 percent last month, a modest increase that fits with projections that the economic growth is moderating.

A long-considered merger of copper producers came together Sunday when Freeport-McMoRan Inc., based in New Orleans, said it would acquire Phelps Dodge Corp. for $25.9 billion in cash and stock. The headquarters for the combined company, which would be the world's largest publicly traded copper producer, is expected to be in Phoenix, the home of Phelps Dodge. Shareholders and regulators still must approve the merger before it can take effect. In other deals: •Russia's largest steelmaker, Evraz Group SA, bought Oregon Steel (of Portland, Ore.) for $2.3 billion. •Brokerage firm Charles Schwab Corp. sold its wealth-management subsidiary US Trust to Bank of America Corp. for $3.3 billion in cash.

The arson wildfire that swept through the mountains about 90 miles east of Los Angeles late last month raced at 40 m.p.h. with walls of flames as high as 90 feet, according to a preliminary report by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. A suspect in the case has pleaded not guilty.

When Nintendo Co.'s Wii video-game player went on sale Sunday, the launch proceeded more smoothly than Sony's introduction of PlayStation 3 two days earlier. Demand for about 400,000 PlayStation 3 consoles was so great that police had to disperse rowdy crowds at some stores around the country. Nintendo said it had as much as 10 times more consoles on the shelves, with an estimated 4 million units set for delivery by the end of the year.

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