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Construction of new homes dropped by 18.9 percent in November, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 625,000, the steepest decline since 1984, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

A New York-bound Atlantis Air-lines plane with 11 people on board disappeared shortly after takeoff Tuesday from the Dominican Republic. The US Coast Guard began a search in the Atlantic Ocean.

Mexican drug traffickers represent the greatest organized crime threat to the United States, the Justice Department reported Monday. Mexican groups control drug distribution in most US cities and increasingly work with the Italian Mafia and other crime groups.

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President-elect Obama introduced an environmental team Monday that will focus on tackling global warming and developing alternative forms of energy. Joining him at a press conference were his choices for energy secretary (Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu), Environmental Protection Agency administrator (Lisa Jackson, former head of New Jersey's environmental department), and leader of a White House council on energy and climate (former EPA ad-ministrator Carol Browner).

Chicago school superintendent Arne Duncan is President-elect Obama's pick as education secretary, sources confirmed in advance of Tuesday's formal announcement. Student test scores have risen significantly under Duncan's leadership.

The man arrested for a deadly bomb explosion at an Oregon bank over the weekend was identified Monday by authorities as former Navy serviceman Joshua Turnidge. He lives in Salem, about 20 miles from the Woodburn bank where two law enforcers were killed and a third critically injured. Turnidge has no criminal past.

History supports keeping open the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Vice President Dick Cheney told ABC News in an interview Monday. "In previous wars, we've always exercised the right to capture the enemy and hold them until the end of the conflict," he said, citing the ongoing nature of the war on terror.

A powerful storm that pounded southern California with heavy rain Monday, as well as snow at higher elevations, triggered hundreds of fender-bender traffic accidents, a highway closure, and home evacuations by residents concerned about mudslides from fire-stripped hillsides. Above, a front-end loader is used to clear mud from a street in Yorba Linda.

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