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Turmoil in the financial markets and rising gasoline prices contributed to a drop in consumer confidence in March, the New York-based Conference Board said Tuesday. Despite a larger-than-expected index dip from 111.2 in February to 107.2, a board spokesperson said the report doesn't "suggest a weakening in economic conditions."

Australian David Hicks, who pleaded guilty Monday at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba of providing material support to Al Qaeda terrorists, will likely be returned to his country for sentencing later this year, the US military said.

The Supreme Court made it harder Tuesday for whistle- blowers to share in the proceeds from fraud lawsuits against government contractors. The court ruled 6 to 2 that James Stone, a retired engineer, may not collect a penny for his role in exposing fraud at the now-closed Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant northwest of Denver.

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Jill Goodling, the Justice Department's liaison with the White House, said Monday she would invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before a Senate inquiry into the ouster of eight federal prosecutors. She is one of several aides closely involved in planning the firings that have lawmakers pressing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for more details.

Maryland issued a formal apology Monday for its involvement in the slave trade, with the House of Delegates passing a resolution expressing "profound regret" for having once "trafficked in human flesh." Last month, Virginia made a similar apology last month.

Ceremonies were held Monday in Washington to commemorate the 25th anniversary of groundbreaking for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The wall is inscribed with the names of 58,000 lost or missing service personnel.

Lawrence Small, the first businessman to run the Smithsonian Institution, resigned after seven years at the helm due to mounting criticism of his "champagne lifestyle," board members said Monday. The Senate voted to withhold a budget increase to the organization if it didn't crack down.

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