USA

Some 5,000 janitors who unionized in Houston last year hailed their settlement of a month-long strike against the city's leading cleaning companies as a major victory Monday. The janitors, who are currently paid $5.15 an hour, will receive a 50 percent raise in increments until they reach $7.75 in 2009. The contract also guarantees more hours and benefits.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations called Tuesday for a probe of US Airways staff and Minneapolis airport security for their roles in having six Muslim clerics removed from a flight the day before. Three members of the Phoenix-bound group who'd attended a conference in Minneapolis prayed in the terminal before boarding. They claim that religious prejudice may have been involved in the "disrespectful" manner in which they were ordered off the plane.

US businesses have thus far accounted for 36 percent, or $1.22 trillion worth, of the world's mergers in 2006, a record-setting year, according to data released Monday by Dealogic, an investment banking service company. Analysts say excess cash held by private equity firms and public companies and low interest rates are among the factors driving the "merger mania."

Cathy Lanier, who began her career with the US capital's Metropolitan Police as a foot patrol officer 16 years ago, was named Monday as the first woman police chief of the District of Columbia. She joins other big-city female police chiefs in Detroit, San Francisco, Milwaukee, and Portland, Ore.

Media magnate Rupert Murdoch said he and senior management of News Corp., which owns Fox Broadcasting and the HarperCollins publishing house, decided to cancel a TV and book special involving O.J. Simpson, calling them "ill-considered." Fox had scheduled a two-part interview with Simpson to discuss how he would have killed his slain wife if he'd been the killer – ideas that were to be the basis of a book entitled "If I Did It." On Tuesday, Simpson's ex-sister-in-law accused the company of offering to hand over the project's profits to her family in exchange for their silence, a proposition it denies.

Early next year, the US Mint will start rolling out a series of one-dollar coins honoring deceased US presidents from George Washington to Richard Nixon. The series, announced Monday, will run through 2016 and will copy the format of the mint's successful series of state quarters. The first coin bears Washington's likeness.

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