The Senate Judiciary Committee intends to vote Jan. 24 on Judge Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court, according to Senate leaders. Debate by the full Senate will follow. If the chamber's 55 Republicans all vote in his favor, as appears probable, analysts say, Alito could be confirmed with their votes alone.

Former President Ford was "resting comfortably" at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif, a spokesperson said in describing his condition after being admitted Monday for treatment of pneumonia.

The National Retail Federation forecast a modest 4.7 percent increase in 2006 retail sales. At its annual convention in New York, it cited higher energy prices, an unsettled labor market, and a slowdown in home equity refinancing for the expected drop from a 6.1 percent gain in 2005.

Former Vice President Gore was strongly rebutted by the Bush administration after he called for an independent investigation of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program. In a speech Monday, Gore said the White House has acted without congressional authority in eavesdropping on phone calls and e-mails of Americans suspected of having terrorist links. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the program is "perfectly legal" and that there was "activity regarding physical searches without warrants" during Gore's years in the Clinton administration.

The Massachusetts high court ruled that 11-year-old Haleigh Poutre, who was beaten nearly to death with a baseball bat by her adoptive mother and stapfather, can be removed from life support after being hospitalized since September. The stepfather, who tried to block the decision, could face a murder charge.

At the 63rd annual Golden Globe presentations in Hollywood, "Brokeback Mountain" won trophies for best dramatic picture, director, screenplay, and song. Although not a sure predictor for the March 5 Academy Awards, such a haul makes the homosexual-themed story of cowboy lovers a top contender. Also making its mark: "Walk the Line," the story of country music legend Johnny Cash, which won for the best musical or comedy, as well as acting awards for Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. Foreign film critics select the winners.

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