USA

Attorney General Michael Mukasey opened a full criminal investigation Wednesday into the circumstances surrounding the CIA's 2005 destruction of videotapes showing tough interrogations of two Al Qaeda suspects. John Durham (right), a federal prosecutor with a mob-busting reputation, will oversee the probe.

Orders to US factories jumped 1.5 percent in November, the largest amount in four months, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Demand for big-ticket durable goods, however, fell by 0.1 percent.

In a move that rankled conservationists, the US Minerals Management Agency announced Wednesday that it will open up nearly 46,000 square miles in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast to petroleum leases in February. Opponents claim the sale was approved without sufficient information about climate change or impacts on polar bears and other animals.

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In San Francisco, police investigating the mauling death of a visitor to the city's zoo by an escaped tiger said they were looking at whether alcohol was a factor or if the victim and two friends had taunted the animal.

Late-night TV hosts returned to the air Wednesday after a two-month hiatus during a still unsettled writers' strike. Although David Letterman's "Late Show" had its writers back, NBC's Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien and ABC's Jimmy Kimmel returned without their joke-writing teams.

Growers in Florida scrambled to protect their crops from a cold snap Thursday by harvesting as many mature plants as possible or shielding them from the elements. Above, a worker in Boynton Beach covers a field of basil.

Drivers who use cellphones impede the flow of traffic, clog highways, and extend commute times, researchers at the University of Utah's Traffic Lab said in summarizing their findings Wednesday.

New research indicates a natural and cyclical increase in the amount of energy in the atmosphere combines to form a one-two punch with man-made global warming to account for dramatic Arctic thawing, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Nature.

The College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, has become the first "carbon-neutral" campus in the country, the private school of 300 students has announced. The college has achieved a balance between the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air with the amount being removed by buying carbon offsets through a climate trust in Oregon. The college is among 450 universities to take a "net-zero" pledge.

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