USA

Retail sales were essentially flat in January, with minor gains in some sectors dragged down by a 1.3 percent dip in auto sales, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. The one-month drop for the struggling auto industry was its worst performance since June.

With wartime recruiting a challenge, the Army is taking in many more soldiers with criminal records, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. According to Defense Department data, the number of felony waivers granted by the Army more than doubled to 901 between 2003 and 2006. Waivers for misdemeanors such as petty theft rose from 2,700 to 6,000.

The defense attorney for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby said Tuesday that neither his client nor Vice President Cheney would take the stand in Libby's trial on perjury and obstruction charges in the CIA leak trial. Closing arguments are expected early next week.

Progress in airport screening for weapons and bombs has been limited by management and funding challenges, the Government Accountability Office told Congress Tuesday. Privacy issues also have delayed the introduction of devices such as the Whole Body Imager. In a related development, the Senate Commerce Committee cleared a bill giving security officials three years to ensure that all cargo on passenger planes is screened for explosives.

The Kansas Board of Education approved new evolution-friendly science standards Tuesday by a 6-to-4 vote, thus repealing guidelines that questioned Darwin's theory. Advocates of creationism and "intelligent design" have made this a hot issue in the state in recent years.

The US will greatly expand its welcome to Iraqi refugees next year, according to a State Department preview of a Bush administration announcement expected Wednesday, after Monitor deadlines. The plan reportedly calls for allowing in about 7,000 refugees from Iraq, where some 3.8 million have fled since the war began in 2003. To date, only 463 refugees have ended up in the US.

The US prison population is projected to grow 13 percent over the next five years, or three times faster than the general population, according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

James, an English Springer spaniel, was awarded Best in Show honors Tuesday at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, triumphing over 2,500 other entrants representing 165 breeds and varieties.

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