After a record 1,150 days in bankruptcy, United Airlines exits Chapter 11 protection from its creditors Thursday. While continuing service, the nation's No. 2 carrier has trimmed its workforce 30 percent, its fleet of planes by 20 percent, and operating costs by another 20 percent through deep pay cuts and the elimination of defined-benefit pensions.

The lack of a clear chain of command hindered federal relief efforts after hurricane Katrina, the Government Accountability Office said Wednesday in a report that represents the first congressional conclusions on the subject. The report said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff or a deputy should have become a "central focal point" and that the federal response was generally to wait until affected states asked for help.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has struggled to transition hurricane evacuees out of hotel rooms, said thousands in Georgia had missed a midnight-Monday deadline to register for additional federal funds. Occupants of almost 2,000 rooms will have to start paying next Tuesday, depending on what individual hotels decide.

Construction spending for everything from homes to highways totaled a record $1.12 trillion last year, up 8.9 percent since the previous record set in 2004, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. Although some of the lowest home mortgage rates in decades have fueled a housing boom, analysts predict home sales will slow as lending rates rise.

Three years after a nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I., that trapped concertgoers, Daniel Biechele pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary man-slaughter in a deal with prosecutors. As former tour manager for the rock band Great White, Biechele set off the pyrotechnics that caused the inferno. The plea agreement means he will serve a maximum of 10 years in state prison but will avoid a possible lifetime sentence in the first criminal trial in the case.

A federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., denied a request for full ownership of Titanic artifacts by RMS Titanic Inc., the company that has recovered about 1,800 pieces from the shipwreck. The court upheld a 1994 agreement that gives exclusive salvage rights to the company so long as what it recovers is used in the public interest. The salvager wanted ownership of nearly 6,000 artifacts valued at more than $71 million.

Antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, was arrested in the House chamber shortly before President Bush gave his State of the Union address because she refused to cover up an antiwar slogan on her shirt. She was the guest of Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D) of California.

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