December's jobless rate rose in 363 of 369 metropolitan areas, according to Labor Department statistics released Wednesday. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported that the private sector lost 522,000 jobs in January.

As part of a broad policy assessment of US goals in Afghanistan, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have drafted a report that recommends focusing on pursuing Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists inside neighboring Pakistan and de-emphasizing efforts to nurture a democratic government. The Obama administration will review the report before formulating its long-term strategy.

US vehicle sales fell by 37 percent in January, the industry's worst performance since a recession 27 years ago, according to figures released Tuesday. All manufacturers felt the impact of the economic slump, but none worse than General Motors, which experienced a 49 percent sales drop.

Bonnie Newman, who calls herself an "independent-minded Republican," became New Hampshire's new US senator-designate Tuesday, after Gov. John Lynch (D) named her to replace Judd Gregg, President Obama's newly announced pick for Commerce secretary. Newman has served as chief of staff to Gregg, a Republican Obama calls "a master at reaching across the aisle to get things done."

A man suspected of threatening financial institutions across the country is in custody, authorities said Tuesday of their arrest of Richard Leon Goyette at the Albuquerque, N.M., airport. He is accused of mailing letters containing an unidentified white powder that proved harmless to some 70 banks and federal regulatory offices. Goyette recently lost more than $60,000 in a bank failure.

As a safety precaution, NASA said Tuesday it will delay next week's scheduled space shuttle launch at least until Feb. 19 to further test newly installed valves. They control the flow of gaseous hydrogen into the external fuel tank. During a launch in November part of an old valve broke off.

Wells Fargo & Co. did an about-face Tuesday, first defending plans to reward top employees with a lavish Las Vegas junket before deciding to cancel the trip after feeling the heat from Capitol Hill.

MySpace, the social-networking website popular with young people, has denied access to 90,000 sex offenders, nearly double the number the company once estimated used the site, company and law enforcement officials said Tuesday. Facebook, a rival site, is also expected to release data on barring sex offenders.

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