Orders to US factories for costly manufactured goods soared a record 12.8 percent in October, reflecting stronger demand for a variety of big ticket items, from cars to computers. The rebound came after new orders dropped by 9.2 percent in September, the Commerce Department reported. The surge was the largest since the government began keeping records in 1992 and marked the first increase in orders for durable goods since May.

A legal pact between the US and Egypt aimed at fighting terrorism, drug trafficking, and financial crime was signed in Washington by Secretary of State Powell and his Egyptian counterpart, Ahmed Maher. The treaty establishes common standards authorities can use in legal matters, such as issuing arrest-and-search warrants. A State Department official said the deal is key to cutting off financing for terror groups.

The White House budget chief blamed the recession and the war against terrorism for the return of annual federal deficits, which he said he expects for at least the next three years. The prediction by Mitchell Daniels was the first public acknowledgment by the White House that following four straight annual surpluses, deficits are back.

Foreigners who provide information on terrorists or their activities could be put on a fast track to citizenship, Attorney General Ashcroft said. Under a new program, the government will provide visa assistance and a "pathway to citizenship" to those who aid the war on terrorism, and could defer deportation for some, he said.

The military plans to conduct a fifth "hit-to-kill" missile-defense test in space over the Pacific Ocean tomorrow by trying to shoot down a mock warhead with an interceptor rocket, the Pentagon said. Defense officials said the test, in which a projectile fired from Kwajalein island will try to intercept a dummy warhead launched from a California Air Force base, would not violate the 1972 ABM treaty between the US and Russia. Two of four tests have been successful. The US and Russia remain at odds over the program.

A black robbery suspect in Cincinnati was shot to death in a confrontation with four police officers, the latest incident of its type in a city that experienced race riots last April over the death of an unarmed teenager at the hands of a white officer. In Wednesday's shooting, two officers were white, two were black. The suspect had tried to rob another man and brandished a pellet gun, police said.

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