USA

Construction spending fell 1.7 percent in January, its biggest nosedive in 14 years, the Commerce Department reported Monday. Meanwhile, the Institute for Supply Management's February manufacturing index registered its weakest reading (48.3) since April 2003.

A fire of suspicious origin burned four luxury model homes in Woodinville, Wash., north of Seattle, Monday. The initials "ELF," an abbreviation for the Earth Liberation Front, a group responsible for arsons in the Northwest, were found at the site, a fire official said.

The FBI said it completed a search of a house and storage units in Riverton, Utah, for ricin, a deadly poison linked to Roger Von Bergendorff, who lived in the home. The FBI said the locations were safe but didn't elaborate. Ricin was found in Von Bergendorff's Las Vegas motel room last week. He's been hospitalized, unable to speak, since then.

The Hong Kong-based owner of a cargo ship that struck the Bay Bridge and spilled thousands of gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay in November agreed Sunday to make an "initial payment" of $2 million to the city of San Francisco for cleanup costs. The total cost may exceed $100 million.

The governments of Virginia, Utah, and Washington received the highest grade (A-) in an annual survey of all 50 states for their performance in serving the public, The Pew Center on the States announced Monday.

The subprime loan crisis ranks as the No. 1 threat to the US economy over the next two years, according to a survey by the National Association for Business Economics.

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