President Bush regards North Korea's admission of a nuclear weapons program as "troubling, sobering news," but still favors a diplomatic solution, White House aides said. The administration earlier revealed that the Pyongyang government, presented with evidence by US diplomats, acknowledged 12 days ago that it had an active weapons program, nullifying a 1994 antinuclear agreement. Bush previously named North Korea as part of an "axis of evil" with Iraq and Iran, and analysts said the new disclosure could complicate his push to disarm Iraq by military force if necessary.

After a brief stop in Atlanta, Bush was scheduled at another GOP fund-raiser in Florida, this one to benefit his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush. A recent poll put Jeb Bush (R) in a virtual tie with Democratic challenger Bill McBride. The president and governor also were to visit an elementary school in New Smyrna Beach. Recent ads by the McBride campaign have sharply criticized the governor's education policy.

A bill aimed at averting a repeat of Florida's troubled vote count in the 2000 presidential election won final approval from congressional lawmakers. The Senate passed the measure 92-to-2 Wednesday, a week after the House, and Bush has said he will sign it. The bill sets minimum standards for states on voter registration and on the way elections are conducted. A proposed $3.8 billion for states to implement the overhaul must be approved in separate spending bills stalled in Congress.

Former accounting giant Arthur Andersen LLP will appeal a sentence of five years probation and a $500,000 fine, the company's lawyer said. A federal court in Houston imposed the maximum penalty Wednesday for Andersen's obstruction-of- justice conviction for destroying Enron-related documents. Andersen also is barred from auditing public companies, and its former 28,000-strong workforce has fallen to fewer than 1,000 employees.

In a sign of ongoing labor troubles at West Coast ports, shipping lines sought help from the Justice Department, accusing longshoremen of an "intolerable" work slowdown. The union maintains longshoremen are working as fast as safety permits to clear the vast backlog of goods from a 10-day lockout. A day earlier, a federal judge approved an 80-day "cooling off" period for contract talks.

After two days of deliberations, a jury in Philadelphia found Ira Einhorn guilty of first-degree murder. The 1960s counter- culture icon was charged with the murder of his estranged girlfriend, Holly Maddux, whose remains were found in a trunk in their apartment. Einhorn fled the country in 1979 to avoid prosecution, but was extradited from France last year on condition that he not face the death penalty.

Housing construction jumped 13.3 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.84 million – a six-year high – the Commerce Department reported. The encouraging news helped stock markets to their fifth advance in the past six sessions. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up more than 208 points as the Monitor went to press.

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