Three days of inauguration events will conclude Thursday with President Bush taking the oath of office at noon at the West Front of the Capitol. The oath precedes the traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. What critics complain is probably the most expensive US inauguration yet, at $40 million - including privately funded receptions - is also the most intensely guarded. More than 100 square blocks of Washington will be closed and federal employees are encouraged to work from home. As Bush begins a second term, a Los Angeles Times poll found the American public almost evenly split on his first-term performance, a result echoed in other surveys.

Donald Beardslee, an admitted murderer who spent 20 years on death row, became the first California inmate executed in three years when given a lethal injection at San Quentin Prison Wednesday. California has the nation's largest death-row population, 640 prisoners, but executions rarely occur because of lengthy appeals. While on parole for a murder in Missouri, Beardslee killed two women in California in 1981.

Samir Vincent, an Iraqi-born American businessman from Annandale, Va., pleaded guilty Tuesday in New York to acting as an illegal agent of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's government in the corruption of the UN's oil-for-food program. Vincent is the first person charged in the Justice Department's investigation of efforts to skim money from the program that was supposed to be used for humanitarian needs.

An Inglewood, Calif., police officer who accused the city of reverse discrimination after he was fired for punching a black teenage suspect in 2002 was awarded $1.6 million Tuesday in a 11-1 jury verdict. Jeremy Morse claimed physical provocation led to his striking the handcuffed teen and slamming him onto a patrol car. Fellow officer Bijan Darvish, who was suspended for 10 days for not mentioning Morse's conduct in a police report, was awarded $810,000 in the case. The city has not decided whether to appeal the verdict.

A new law allows taxpayers to deduct contributions made this month to help victims of December's Asian tsunami from their 2004 returns, the Internal Revenue Service said. For more information, see the IRS website:

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