The US Senate was poised to vote on, and probably approve, a ban on a medical procedure called partial birth abortion by opponents, sending the legislation to President Bush, who supports it. Former President Clinton twice vetoed similar bills, the first to restrict a specific abortion method since the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Some physicians and women's groups have pledged to challenge the measure in court as unconstitutional.

The federal deficit hit a record $374.2 billion in 2003, the White House Office of Management and Budget said Monday. Noting previous projections of a $455 billion gap, budget director Joshua Bolten called the latest figure "an encouraging sign" that the economy is gaining momentum, although he said next year's deficit is likely to top $500 billion. "I'm somewhat amused; they thought that was good news," countered Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, senior Democrat on the Budget Committee. Other Democrats accused the administration of deliberately using high early estimates.

Embarrassed by a smuggling incident, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will respond more aggressively to future threats, spokesman Mark Hatfield said. "The system should have picked it up," he told ABC-TV's "Good Morning America." He spoke a day after Nathaniel Heatwole was charged in federal court in Baltimore with taking a dangerous weapon aboard an aircraft. Heatwole reportedly emailed the TSA in September that he'd hidden box cutters and other items on two Southwest Airlines flights, but the agency didn't alert the FBI until Friday.

More rain and some snow was forecast for the Pacific Northwest and neighboring British Columbia, where flooding from days of storms had damaged roads and forced evacuations. A record 3.48 inches of rain fell in Seattle Monday. At least three weather-related deaths are reported in the region.

A Colorado judge ordered Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant to stand trial on a charge of sexual assault Monday. The judge noted, however, that prosecutors presented "minimal" evidence to back up the rape claim by a female resort employee. Bryant insists the encounter was consensual. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

Emergency crews retrieved a man who apparently went over Niagara Falls on the US-Canadian border with no safety device Monday, the first person to do so and survive. Witnesses reported seeing the unidentified man calmly enter the river and go headfirst over the 180-foot Canadian Horseshoe Falls, then pull himself out onto the shore.

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