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"No single 'must-have' toy will dominate Christmas toy sales this year (like the Cabbage Patch Doll, Elmo or Furby have in past years)."
The guerrilla war is at a high pitch and other cities have yet to be fully pacified - Sunni-dominated Mosul in the north and Ramadi to the west of Falluja among them. Let alone Baghdad.

And proper civilian rule in these places has to be establ
The insurgents are reckoned to number about 20,000 but nobody really knows. In September, an American general said there might be 40,000 of them. This is no small insurrection.
Certainly, the Americans fought cleverly in Falluja this time. Advance warnings might have let the rebel commanders escape. But they also allowed civilians to get out and this has lessened the adverse impact of the fighting.

The marines also m
The elections, due on 27 January, are an essential element of pacification. A great deal is riding on them. But as they get closer, how much they will achieve becomes harder to discern.

They too are likely to be a milepost and not the destinat
FACT: The new Bush Administration overtime laws are written such that many workers who currently earn overtime pay in this pay range are likely to lose it. For example:

Concurrent Duties—Under the old rule, an employee who spent a s
(AP) The Ten Commandments monument banished from Alabama's state judicial building began a national tour on the back of a flatbed truck on Saturday - starting outside the courthouse where the teaching of evolution was put on trial almost 80 years ago.
"I call 2004 the 'Techno Retro Year' because many old favorite toys are returning ('retro') but with new twists, and most of these twists are 'techno'," says Galloway. "For example, the 'Easy Bake' oven has been re-created as the 'Real Mea
1. Hottest Christmas Toys 2004 #1 - Techno

Video games (and the systems to play them on) are HUGE again this year -- again. Some of the old favorite characters and game types will still be hot, but there are new electronic entertainment system
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court questioned whether state medical marijuana laws might be abused by people who aren't really sick as it debated on Monday whether the federal government can prosecute patients who smoke pot on doctors' orders.
Watching the argument was Angel Raich, an Oakland, California, mother of two who said she tried dozens of prescription medicines to ease the pain of a brain tumor and other illnesses before she turned to marijuana. She and another ill woman, Diane Monson
The stakes are high because 11 states have passed medical marijuana laws since 1996. A defeat for the two California women might undermine those laws and discourage other states from approving their own.

A loss for the government, on the other
The marijuana users won in the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that federal prosecution of medical marijuana users is unconstitutional if the pot is not sold, transported across state lines or used for nonmedicinal purp
"I think he would find that cannabis would help him a lot," said Raich, who uses marijuana every few hours for scoliosis, a brain tumor, chronic nausea and other illnesses.

California's law allows people to grow, smoke or obtain mari
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Friday nominated former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to take over as secretary of homeland security.

Bush called Kerik a "dedicated, innovative reformer who insists on getting resul
"I am deeply humbled and honored for the opportunity to serve you and this great country," Kerik said in accepting the nomination. "Should I receive the consent of the Senate, I will devote every power I posess toward fulfilling the vital
Protesters in Kiev's main square watched a crucial Supreme Court debate on outdoor TV screens Thursday as Ukraine awaited the judges' ruling on the country's election crisis.

Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko told supporters he expects the c
The European Parliament on Thursday passed a strongly worded resolution calling for a rerun of the vote and rejecting Russian criticisms that Western leaders were encouraging violence by supporting the fraud allegations. (Full story)

In Moscow
"The position of our government is that the will of the people must be known and heard," Bush said. "And therefore we will continue to monitor and be involved in a process that encourages there to be a peaceful resolution of this issue.&qu
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, who has helped Solana mediate the Ukraine deadlock, said a repeat of the runoff was the best solution.

"My opinion (on the solution to the crisis) is simple: elections have not yet been completed,
LONDON, England (Reuters) -- A protester has attacked a controversial waxwork Nativity scene featuring England soccer captain David Beckham as Joseph and his pop star wife "Posh Spice" Victoria as the Virgin Mary.

"He pushed Pos
KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine lawmakers have reopened their investigation in opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko's disfiguring illness after doctors in Austria said he was poisoned.

Monday's decision by a parliamentary commission followed a similar
Sivkovych, who supported Yushchenko's presidential opponent, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, will lead the commission.

Sivkovych led an earlier commission that investigated the case in October. That panel decided Yushchenko had suffered a co
"If (the) General Prosecution of Ukraine will act according to the law, as I hope, Ukraine and the whole world will know who was in charge of it."

Yushchenko, who returned to Kiev after doctors in Austria confirmed the poisoning duri
Yanukovych was declared the official winner of that vote, but Ukraine's Supreme Court threw out the results because of voting irregularities and ordered a repeat of the runoff.

Sivkovych said he had met with Piskun, and the lawmaker urged Yush
Rock solid' diagnosis

Meanwhile, the doctor who oversaw Yushchenko's treatment in Vienna said Sunday that the diagnosis of dioxin poisoning is "rock solid," but added that more information must be obtained before medical authorities
"We have sent samples to a lab within Europe and also to labs across the Atlantic Ocean that claim to have vast experience, and they came up with the results," Zimpfer told CNN.

Yushchenko has "a tremendous amount of dioxin in t
( -- If you were disappointed with the meager showing put on by this year's Leonid meteor shower, don't fret. What could be the best meteor display of the year is scheduled to reach its peak on Monday night, December 13.

Typically strong

The Geminid meteors are usually the most satisfying of all the annual showers, even surpassing the famous Perseids of August. Studies of past displays show that this shower has a reputation for being rich both in slow, bright,
Ideal conditions

The Geminids perform excellently in any year, but British meteor astronomer Alastair McBeath has expects a "superb year" in 2004. Last year's display was seriously compromised by bright moonlight, when a bright gibbo
COSTA MESA, California (AP) -- The thieves struck at night and knew just what they were after.

In minutes, they ripped two plants from the lavish landscaping at a home in this Los Angeles suburb, then fled when the homeowner woke up and turned
"No one talks about what they have anymore because they are just afraid," said Tom Broome, a nursery owner in Polk City, Florida, and president of the Cycad Society. The organization, with 500 members in 20 countries, promotes efforts to save t
"If someone found out I had it here they'd do anything to get it," he said.

Nearly everyone involved with cycads has a story of theft. One nursery owner in the San Diego area, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said he's been
TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) -- Sony Corp. said on Monday retailers had almost completely sold out of the Play Station Portable on its first day in Japanese stores, marking a strong start for the company's first handheld game machine.

Sony shipped a
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sen. John McCain, the straight-talking Republican who often challenges the GOP establishment, has taken on a headline-grabbing issue -- steroids in baseball -- and generated talk of a presidential bid in 2008.

Amid revelatio
Even though President Bush has yet to take the oath of office for a second term, other names that have surfaced as possible GOP candidates in 2008 include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee; Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, George Allen of Virg
SEATTLE, Washington (AP) -- Rod Watson had to cancel 1,000 flu-shot clinics in four states when the national vaccine shortage cut off his supply two months ago.

Now Watson has flu shots aplenty -- and he can't give them away.

Supply exceeds demand in some areas, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges. In other areas, people are still desperate for the vaccine. The best way to find a flu shot is to call your local health department, the CDC advises
"It's a mild flu season up to now, but next week could be another story," Selecky said. "As a society we're driven by what's in front of us ... We're having to work a little bit harder so people know that getting a flu vaccine in December
Dec. 20 issue - The week after Thanksgiving, dozens of Democratic Party loyalists gathered at AFL-CIO headquarters for a closed-door confab on the election. John Kerry dropped by to thank members of the liberal 527 coalition America Votes. When Ellen Mal
REDWOOD CITY, California (CNN) -- Jurors who decided that Scott Peterson deserves to die say his lack of emotion played a large role in their decision.

Peterson was convicted last month of killing his wife Laci and their unborn son, who was to
The jury's death penalty recommendation surprised some observers, who pointed to the lack of physical evidence tying Peterson to the killings.

But jurors who spoke to the media after Monday's recommendation say the callousness of the crime --
Juror Richelle Nice, the mother of four children, pointed to Peterson's demeanor.

"No emotion, no anything. That spoke a thousand words," Nice said.

"Scott Peterson was Laci's husband, Conner's daddy -- the one person
The conclusion of the trial came at a "very hard" time of the year for Laci Peterson's family, Grantski said.

Christmas Eve will be the second anniversary of Laci Peterson's disappearance.

Cheers went up from a crowd of se
The jury had two options in deciding Peterson's fate: life in prison without parole or death.

On November 12, the same six-man, six-woman jury convicted Peterson of first-degree murder with special circumstances in the death of Laci and of sec
AN FRANCISCO, California ( -- NASA's Mars rovers have returned new evidence for past water, pictures of Earth-like clouds seen for the first time from the planet's surface, and a rock that doesn't look like anything scientists have ever seen.
A chunk of terrestrial goethite about the size of a can of tomato soup, passed around during a press conference, was black and shiny.

Other findings suggest the rocks of Columbia Hills have a history that included either a meteorite impact or
Opportunity, back on the Meridiani Planum, took pictures of wispy clouds that look strikingly like cirrus clouds on Earth.

"This is just a totally spectacular image," said NASA rover scientist Michael Wolff as he presented the first
Erickson said the rovers are likely to continue exploring until some mechanical failure takes them down, rather than any problem with solar power generation. Spirit is still dogged by a balky front wheel and Opportunity continues to struggle with a shoul
BANGKOK, Thailand -- The World Health Organization has issued a dramatic warning that bird flu will trigger an international pandemic that could kill up to seven million people.

The influenza pandemic could occur anywhere from next week to the

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