The consensus selection of Bill Frist (R) of Tennessee as the new Senate majority leader is expected to be finalized today, aligning his party's forces in the chamber more closely with President Bush's political agenda than they were under outgoing leader Trent Lott. Frist, a medical doctor by training, may display his conservative approach most vividly on healthcare issues, analysts said.

In a move intended to improve the effectiveness of UN weapons searches in Iraq, the Bush administration will share detailed intelligence with chief inspector Hans Blix and his team, officials said Saturday. But the new intelligence will be released gradually to prevent leaks, CNN reported. Additional inspectors now are arriving in Iraq, and their spokesmen claim that the increased numbers will help the team act more quickly on the information.

Citing concerns about Iraq and a commitment to begin work on domestic issues, the White House said Bush will postpone his January trip to Africa. Although a spokesman denied that security was a factor, last month's terrorist attacks in Kenya had brought the President's safety into question. Officials say the visit will be rescheduled for later in the year. Meanwhile, the president received a smallpox vaccination Saturday, seeking to reassure Americans that they need not worry about the disease.

Ten of the nation's largest brokerage houses said Friday they would pay $1.44 billion to settle allegations of misconuct. The settlement, negotiated by the office of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, calls on Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Credit Suisse First Boston to pay millions in fines, end the links between their research and investment banking okperations, and fund independent stock research for investors. Other companies involved in the settlement include J.P. Morgan Chase, Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, Deutsche Bank and UBS Warburg. In agreeing the the fines, the firms will neither admit nor deny charges that they misled investors.

Results of a new poll of registered Democrats suggests that US Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York leads John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut in the field of potential 2004 candidates for the party's presidential nomination. Kerry and Lieberman have both declared their candidacies; Senator Clinton has repeatedly said she will not run.

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