Two efforts to raise the national minimum wage were defeated in Congress Monday, with both Democrats and Republicans offering proposals for increases that failed to win passage. The Democrats saw their plan to raise the basic minimum from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 over the next 26 months fail first, as Republicans argued that the increase would negatively impact the entry-level workers it's designed to help. Then the Republicans presented an alternative for phasing in a more modest $1.10 increase in two steps over 18 months. The minimum wage was last raised in 1996.

John Bolton, who was introduced Monday as President Bush's choice to succeed John Negroponte as US ambassador to the United Nations, is expected to face tough confirmation hearings when he goes before the Senate next month. His selection rankled some lawmakers, especially Democrats, who expressed concerns about his history of criticizing the world body. Bolton currently serves as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

The Army's successful recruitment of blacks and females has dropped off markedly according to studies for the military, the Associated Press reported. The decline, which is attributed to concerns about combat and fighting for a cause that not all Americans support, could lead to a prolonged recruiting slump, the studies suggest. The share of blacks among Army enlistments has dropped from 22.7 percent to 13.9 percent over the last four years, and female recruits from 21.6 percent to 17.1 percent.

Physicist and ex-Cornell University instructor Hans Bethe, who died Sunday in Ithaca, N.Y., was among the scientists who built the first atomic bomb. In 1967, he received the Nobel Prize for discovering how the sun and other stars generate energy.

In yet another rejection of Sinn Fein, the political ally of the Irish Republican Army, House Speaker Dennis Hastert said he will not invite party boss Gerry Adams to an annual St. Patrick's Day luncheon with congressional leaders. Last week, the White House said Adams and other Northern Ireland political leaders will be excluded from a similar event in the executive mansion as a sign of displeasure over the stalled Northern Ireland peace process.

In an effort to quell international criticism, the Bush administration said it will instruct Texas courts to hear the cases of 51 Mexicans on death row who were denied the opportunity, provided by international law, for foreign prisoners to meet with diplomats from their own governments. The issue has been a point of contention in US-Mexican relations.

Despite being mostly restricted to home since completing a five-month federal prison sentence, Martha Stewart met with employees of her flagship company Monday in New York, vowing that its publications and TV programs would deepen their bond with readers and viewers. Whether Stewart's prison experience can be turned into a positive for her struggling company has been a source of controversy among media analysts.

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