Consumer confidence fell in October to its lowest level in 7-1/2 years as the terrorist attacks sapped Americans' optimism about the economy and the security of their jobs, The Conference Board said. Its latest monthly index sank to 85.5 from 97 in September. The index, based on a survey of 5,000 households, compares results with its base year, 1985, when it stood at 100.

The FBI issued a new terrorism warning - the second this month - asking Americans to be on the highest alert for possible attacks this week. It did not, however, identify a specific threat. Attorney General John Ashcroft (above) said militants may be plotting new attacks on US targets or interests at home and abroad in retaliation for the military campaign in Afghan-istan. Vice President Cheney again was moved to a secure location because of new threats.

The number of confirmed cases of anthrax grew to 15 after a Hamilton Township, N.J., woman who doesn't work for the Postal Service developed the cutaneous form, and a New York City hospital worker tested positive for the inhaled form. Authorities were investigating both cases and had not determined the source of exposure. Acting New Jersey Gov. Donald DiFrancesco (R) ordered anthrax spore testing at 44 post offices in seven counties.

New traces of anthrax spores were found in the mailroom at the State Department and in a building that houses the Food and Drug Administration and Voice of America radio service. Anthrax also was confirmed in an Agriculture Department mailroom. Meanwhile, technicians were considering whether to pump chlorine gas into the Hart Senate Office Building to kill any lingering spores there.

The federal budget surplus shrank to $127 billion for 2001, a figure that follows a record $237 billion last year. The snapshot of government finances marked the first time since 1992 the balance sheet did not show an improvement. The sagging economy and greater spending on the war against terrorism will likely wipe out the surplus altogether this budget year, which began Oct. 1, analysts said. The Congressional Budget Office's last projection was for a $176 billion surplus in this fiscal year.

A federal jury in Chicago awarded $15 million to a man sentenced to life in prison for a murder for which he was later pardoned. Damages represent $1 million for each year James Newsome served for the 1979 shooting death of a grocery store owner. The same jury found last week that he was framed by Chicago police. His conviction was expunged in 1994 after another man's fingerprints were found at the scene.

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