The US trade deficit dropped 28.7 percent in November to $40.4 billion, its lowest level in five years, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.The recession curtailed spending on Chinese imports, shrinking the politically sensitive deficit with China by 17.5 percent, to $23.1 billion, the largest drop on record.

In a Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday, nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton vowed to help build a "world with more partners and fewer adversaries" if approved as the next administration's secretary of State.

Roland Burris, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's pick to assume President-elect Obama's vacated US Senate seat, is expected to be sworn in later this week. Senate Democrats Monday dropped their opposition to Burris's being seated. They had been reluctant to accept Burris , the former Illinois attorney general, because of a cloud hanging over Blagojevich, who faces criminal corruption charges. Burris, however, is accused of no wrongdoing.

Environmentalists concerned that invasive species can enter American waterways in ballast dumped from cargo ships sailing from foreign ports sued the federal government in San Francisco Monday over new shipping rules that they consider too weak. The plaintiffs want more extensive treatment of ship-stabilizing ballast tanks that, when emptied offshore, can foul the waters.

Technology executive Julius Genachowski, a former Harvard Law School classmate of President-elect Obama's, is Obama's choice to lead the Federal Communications Commission, according to a Democratic source.

The Baseball Hall of Fame named two new selections to the Cooperstown, N.Y., shrine Monday: all-time base-stealing leader Rickey Henderson, who played 14 of his 25 seasons with the Oakland A's, and slugging outfielder Jim Rice, whose entire 16-year career was spent with the Boston Red Sox. In a vote of media members, Henderson made it in his first year of eligibility. Rice, on the other hand, received the necessary 75 percent of the votes in his 15th and last year on the ballot.

Officials have confirmed plans to build a new biothreat research lab at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. The $450 million lab will study livestock diseases and other potential bioterrorism threats.

Motown Records, which launched the careers of such soul artists as the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, and the Supremes, celebrated its 50th anniversary Monday in Detroit.

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