USA

Wholesale prices, driven by the record rise in gas prices, jumped 3.2 percent in November, the biggest increase in 34 years, the Labor Department said Thursday. Meanwhile, retail sales surged 1.2 percent.

Analysts hastened to explain, however, that the largest gain in six months was partly due to the big jump in gasoline prices.

Public officials across the Plains kept an eye on reports that another winter storm, with heavy snow, might move into the region Friday, even as utilities warned Oklahoma residents that fully restoring electricity after an ice storm earlier in the week could take 10 days. Meanwhile, schools in some Northeast states announced closures before a winter storm, coming from the Midwest, began dropping a predicted foot of snow.

For the second time, President Bush vetoed a bill to expand government health insurance for children. He contends that the legislation would allow adults into the program, raise taxes, and include more better-off families than intended.

The Environmental Protection Agency has significantly reduced reporting requirements on the amount of toxic chemicals industries produce, store, and discharge, Government Accountability Office auditors told Congress Wednesday.

Dismantling North Korean and Iranian nuclear threats are still among the foreign policy priorities of the Bush administration during its final year, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (above) said Wednesday. She identified resumption of the Middle East peace process and efforts to bring greater stability to Iraq and Lebanon as other focuses.

The North Pole's icecap melted at a record rate last summer, climate scientists said Wednesday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. Astronomers also reported that new data suggest that Saturn's rings may be as much as 4.5 billion years old, not 100 million years old, as previously thought.

Beginning Jan. 1, every newborn child in Maine will be eligible for a $500 college savings nest egg from the Harold Alfond Foundation, executives of the foundation's College Challenge announced this week. The pilot program was the dream of the late Harold Alfond, the founder of the Dexter Shoe Co., who never attended college but viewed a college education as an important stepping stone.

Seattle cut the ribbon (above) on the South Lake Union streetcar line Wednesday, the first step in what officials hope will become a new light-rail transit network and urban development tool. Annual ridership is expected to grow from 330,000 to 1 million.

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