USA

A congressional ethics bill to overhaul lawmakers' relationship with lobbyists narrowly passed the House Wednesday. Opponents, including 19 Republicans and all but eight Democrats, claim the bill is too weak to correct the ethical problems that plague Congress. The GOP-crafted bill forces lobbyists to file reports of their activities more frequently, requires lawmakers to get approval before going on privately sponsored travel and cuts off pensions for lawmakers convicted of bribery.

Productivity and wages increased in the first quarter of 2006, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The efficiency of American workers rose at an annual rate of 3.2 percent from January through March, while their wages grew by 2.5 percent. The gains in productivity represent an important rebound from the fourth quarter of 2005, when productivity actually decreased.

Six men who supplied concrete for Boston's Big Dig, the nation's largest ever public works project, were arrested Thursday on federal charges that they falsified records to hide the poor quality of their concrete. Employees of Aggregate Industries, the six are accused of making false statements, mail fraud, and conspiracy to commit highway fraud, an FBI spokeswoman said.

A national survey of Latino voters released Thursday indicates that President Bush has significantly lower support among Latinos than is popularly believed. Only 23 percent of respondents approved of his performance, a smaller portion than approved of the Republican Party.

Rep. Charles Taylor (R) of North Carolina, who had been blocking plans for a 9/11 memorial for United Flight 93, relented Thursday, agreeing to free $5 million in federal funds for the project.

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