Brushing aside criticism of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, President Bush told a year-end news conference at the White House that "He's done a fine job and I look forward" to continuing to work with him. He predicted that Rumsfeld would, in his second term, win over doubters in Congress, some of whom have called for his resignation. Bush also acknowledged significant policy differences with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, but said their working relationship is too vital to be allowed to wither over them. The White House is expected to announce Tuesday that the two men will hold a summit conference in February in Slovakia.

Just in time for Christmas travelers, the price of gasoline at the pump has dropped more than 10 cents a gallon over the past two weeks, the respected Lundberg Survey reported. But it said the price remains almost 35 cents higher than at the same time a year ago. Its survey of roughly 7,000 stations across the US between Dec. 3 and Dec. 17 found the national average for a gallon of self-serve unleaded regular was $1.83.

A woman who allegedly confessed to murder and the theft of an unborn child from her victim was to be arraigned Monday. A federal magistrate in Kansas City, Kan., will decide whether Lisa Montgomery, a Kansas resident, would be tried there or in Missouri, the home of her victim. The infant, a girl, was reported in good condition in a Topeka, Kan., hospital in her father's custody.

Oral arguments are scheduled to be heard Wednesday in a San Francisco court in two lawsuits contesting the state of California's one-man/one-woman marriage law. The litigation, filed by the city of San Francisco and advocacy groups representing a dozen same-same couples, seek to put California on the same footing with Massachusetts, the only state that allows homosexual marriages. San Francisco granted marriages licenses to almost 4,000 homosexuals earlier this year before the state Supreme Court ordered a halt to the practice.

No major injuries were reported after a blizzard caused an 80-vehicle pileup on busy I-80 near Mercer, Pa., Sunday. About 100 travelers were stranded by the wreckage, which closed westbound lanes for nine hours. Eastbound traffic was stopped for 5-1/2 hours. Authorities said excessive speed on slippery pavement, complicated by near white-out conditions, triggered the accident.

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