USA

Beginning May 14, the cost of a first-class stamp will be increased from 39 cents to 41 cents, the Postal Service announced Monday. The service also agreed with a recommendation by the independent Postal Regulatory Commission that it introduce a "forever stamp." This, too, will sell for 41 cents, but it won't have a price printed on it, which means it remains valid even after rates are raised. Once that occurs, however, new "forever stamps" will sell at the higher rate.

Outdated databases and inadequate staffing hinder efforts to remove illegal immigrants from the US in a timely manner, according to a report released Tuesday by the Homeland Security Department. About 20 percent of the people under court orders to leave are detained more than six months. That's longer than the Supreme Court has deemed reasonable.

New home starts rose 9 percent in February, but applications for building permits, an indicator of future activity, fell 2.5 percent, the Commerce Department said Monday. The construction flurry followed last month's 14.3 percent plunge in home starts to the slowest pace in nine years.

President Bush paid a visit Tuesday to the Kansas City, Mo., auto plants of General Motors and Ford, after being forced to postpone meetings with auto executives on two previous occasions. The major carmakers are pursuing alternative-energy ideas needed to meet the US goal to cut gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next decade.

Police arrested dozens of antiwar activists Monday in New York and San Francisco as rallies there and in other cities capped a three-day series of protests called to mark the fourth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Most of the rallies were peaceful.

A Fort Campbell, Ky., military jury sentenced Sgt. Raymond Girouard of Sweetwater, Tenn., to 10 years in prison Monday for negligent homicide in the killing of three Iraqi detainees who were shot in 2006 after they were freed and told to run.

Anderson, Alaska (pop. 300), gave away 1.3-acre lots Monday to first-in-line applicants as a means of boosting the community's dwindling population, a strategy similar to one tried in other states. The 26 new land-owners must build houses of at least 1,000 square feet each within two years.

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