The latest Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse trial began Tuesday at Fort Meade, Md., with dog handler Sgt. Santos Cardona facing charges that he let his Belgian shepherd harass and threaten detainees in the Iraq jail. Cardona's attorney claims that soldiers higher in the chain of command ordered the intimidation tactics.

Charges of deception and

accounting manipulation were leveled at mortgage giant Fannie Mae in a blistering report issued Tuesday by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. An Associated Press source familiar with the situation said Fannie Mae has agreed to a $300 million to $500 million fine in a deal with regulators.

Personal data on 26.5 million US veterans, most of whom were discharged since 1975, was stolen from the home of a Veteran Affairs employee, the government said Monday. The unnamed worker committed a serious breach by removing the files containing Social Security numbers and birth dates, but there is no evidence that the data have been used for identity theft. The situation is under investigation.

Five-term Sen. Christopher Dodd (D) of Connecticut told the Hartford (Conn.) Courant that he's going to test the presidential waters in the coming months before making a decision on his candidacy early next year. As many as 10 high-ranking Democrats are considering a run.

Pets should not be an afterthought when disasters such as hurricane Katrina strike, House lawmakers agreed in overwhelmingly passing legislation Monday that requires animals to be considered in future emergency preparedness plans. State and local authorities must have evacuation strategies in order to receive federal grants. An estimated 600,000 animals either died or were deserted during or after Katrina. The Senate is working on a similar bill.

Mexican President Vicente Fox begins the first full day of a three-state Western visit Wednesday by addressing a special session of the Utah Legislature. Fox is also scheduled to make stops in California and Washington State as Congress debates immigration policy.

New York City, which hosted the 2004 Republican presidential convention, has thrown its hat in the ring to host both the GOP and Democratic conventions in 2008 in hopes of winning one of the bids.

Second-grader Braxton Bilbrey, a 7-year-old Arizonan, swam the normally treacherous 1.4 miles between Alcatraz Island to San Francisco in 47 minutes Monday. Three adults, including his coach, accompanied the youngster, who became one of the youngest swimmers to achieve the feat. Bilbrey said water temperatures in the mid-50s were his biggest challenge.

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