US Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) of New York has begun to seriously consider running for president in 2008 in the aftermath of her easy reelection victory, a top adviser said Sunday. Clinton has sought the counsel of colleagues in the New York delegation, the adviser said, as well as their support if she decides to run. Meanwhile, Sen. Evan Bayh (D) of Indiana said he was setting up a committee to raise money for a possible bid, making him only the second Democrat after Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa to take this initial formal step.

The attorney for the lead plaintiffs in a sexual-abuse case pending against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation's largest, said the parties hope to complete an agreement early this week. The diocese reportedly will pay $60 million to settle 45 lawsuits with persons abused before the mid-1950s and after 1987. The cases involve 22 priests and are among 500 pending against the diocese.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) said a "joint decision" has led Fire Chief William Bamattre to announce his retirement on Jan. 1. Bamattre, who was hired a decade ago to stamp out racism and sexism, said he is a "political realist" about the spillover from a discrimination case brought by black firefighter Tennis Pierce, who claims that white colleagues served him spaghetti with dog food. Pierce's lawsuit is headed to trial.

The White House confirmed Saturday that President Bush is considering opening federal waters off Alaska's Bristol Bay to oil and gas drilling. Environmentalists strongly oppose lifting a ban on tapping the resource-rich area, home to the world's largest sockeye salmon run, as well as to endangered whales and sea lions. Leasing restrictions were put in place after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Democrats now believe that Republicans may try to allow drilling before they lose control of Congress in January.

Officials warned that residents in some locations could be without power the early part of this week until crews repair lines downed during the Midwest's first big snowstorm of the season. A foot of snow fell in many areas late last week between Michigan and Texas and was blamed for at least 13 deaths.

The Kennedy Center in Washington honored five people over the weekend for their lifetime contributions to the arts and American culture. Saluted during the 29th annual celebration were conductor Zubin Mehta, movie-maker Steven Spielberg, country singer Dolly Parton, soul singer/songwriter Smokey Robinson, and British composer and stage producer Andrew Lloyd Webber. A program taped Sunday night that pays tribute to the five will air on CBS Dec. 26.

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