After overcoming a last procedural obstacle, it appeared that the Senate would pass a new bankruptcy law as early as Wednesday that would force claimants to repay at least part of their debt. House approval of a bill that banks, credit card issuers, and retailers have pushed for eight years most likely would follow next month. The bill establishes a new test for measuring a debtor's ability to pay. Individuals with incomes above a state median would be forced into Chapter 13 bankruptcy, in which they'd repay $100 a month for five years - a total of $6,000.

People in countries where Al Qaeda is active may be entering the US from Mexico using false identities, FBI Director Robert Mueller told Congress Tuesday. He offered no estimate of the number of people he believes have entered the country this way but said he was aware of one route through Brazil and Mexico. Mueller also said that replacing the FBI's antiquated computer system, used in terrorist cases, won't be completed until 2008.

Doris Matsui, the widow of US Rep. Robert Matsui (D) of California, won a special election in the Sacramento area Tuesday to succeed her husband. A lobbyist and former Clinton White House official, she easily defeated a host of other candidates to become the 45th congressional widow since 1923 to assume the seat of her spouse.

City councilman Antonio Villa-raigosa (D) broke out of a crowded field of candidates in Los Angeles to capture a spot in a two-candidate, May 17 mayoral runoff election. With results from Tuesday's primary still not final, it appeared that incumbent James Hahn (D) will be his opponent. Villaraigosa could become the first Hispanic to win city hall in more than a century.

In a new study that looks at the multitasking media habits of 8- to 18-year-olds, the Kaiser Family Foundation said it found that almost one-third do their schoolwork while surfing the Internet, watching television, or engaging in other media-related activities. A foundation spokes-man said such practices are not necessarily bad, but, rather, something parents should evaluate based on family values, a child's age, and how he or she is doing in school.

Mount St. Helens, which has vented ash and steam since last fall, had its most significant emission in months Tuesday, when a 30-minute eruption caused clouds to rise more than 30,000 feet.

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