Supreme Court nominee John Roberts Jr. won a unanimous "well-qualified" rating for the post by the American Bar Association. But senior Democrats in the Senate appeared to be backtracking on a decision, reported in The Washington Post earlier this week, not to mount a major fight against his confirmation. Under pressure from major liberal interest groups, Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont, a member of the Judiciary Committee, portrayed Roberts Wednesday as "deeply tinged with the ideology of the far right wing of his party." In a follow-up report, the Post quoted the Alliance for Justice as warning Democratic senators who support Roberts that they may face a backlash by voters when they run for reelection.

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft (R) was found guilty of violating state ethics laws for failing to disclose receiving such personal gifts as tickets to professional sporting events, golf outings paid for by fund-raisers for his party, and dinners. He was ordered to pay a $4,000 fine but - because of a plea bargain with prosecutors - was spared a sentence of six months in jail for each of four charges against him. Taft had admitted failing to report some gifts but maintained that the omissions were unintentional.

The nation's public school teachers are leaving that profession - or say they expect to in the next five years - at a rate not seen in more than a decade, the National Center for Education Information reported. Among instructors at the high-school level, it said half expect to retire or be in another line of work by 2010. It maintains that the projected turnover rate will lower the level of teaching experience at the very time that the push is on to staff each classroom with a highly qualified instructor.

State Farm Insurance Co. escaped a $1.2 billion judge-ment in a class-action suit when the Illinois Supreme Court reversed a 1999 county court ruling that the carrier had failed to provide top-quality parts for auto repair work. The Supreme Court said the suit should not have been granted class-action status because only one plaintiff was from Illinois.

Moderate growth for the US economy was projected through the fall after the Conference Board reported that its index of leading indicators rose 0.1 percent in July. The main drag: oil prices. Meanwhile, new claims for unemployment benefits remained low enough to suggest that up to 200,000 jobs per month are being added to payrolls.

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