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Jan. 27 - when UN arms inspectors report to the Security Council on Iraq - will be "an important date," as President Bush contemplates whether to go to war, but "events will dictate timetables," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said. He acknowledged differences among UN members as to whether a second resolution is needed to authorize military force. The Pentagon, meanwhile, agreed to set up a "boot camp" for journalists wanting to cover any conflict. This weekend, groups opposed to a war are planning their largest march to date in Washington.

Teenage sniper suspect John Lee Malvo may be tried in adult court, where he faces the death penalty if convicted. In a ruling Wednesday, a juvenile court judge in Fairfax, Va., found sufficient circumstantial evidence to link Malvo to four attacks in a multistate spree that left 13 people dead and five others injured. The families of two victims, meanwhile, planned to file a lawsuit in Washington against the gunshop where a Bushmaster assault rifle used in some of the shootings was bought, against the gun manufacturer, and against suspects Malvo and John Allen Muhammad.

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Weighing in on a widely watched affirmative-action case, the Bush administration was to file a brief asking the US Supreme Court to declare the University of Michigan's race-influenced admissions policies unconstitutional. Bush said Wednesday that he strongly supports diversity, but that the school's methods "amount to a quota system." University President Dr. Mary Sue Coleman denied that claim in an appearance on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America," and opposition Democrats used the case to question Bush's support for civil rights. The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in March, with its ruling expected later in the year.

A Texas college professor who set off a nationwide alert over missing vials of bubonic plague was to appear in court on charges of giving false information to the FBI. Authorities allege that Dr. Thomas Butler, a researcher in infectious disease at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, destroyed the 30 samples that he reported missing Tuesday. All of the vials have been accounted for and there is no danger to public safety, the FBI said.

In the latest sign that inflation remains under control, consumer prices edged up a scant 0.1 percent in December, the Labor Department reported. Last month's minuscule rise in the Consumer Price Index followed an 0.2 percent increase in November.

The San Diego Zoo was celebrating the arrival of Gao Gao, a rare giant panda on loan from the government of China for the next six years. He'll spend a month in quarantine, but after that, zookeepers hope that Gao Gao, a male, will produce offspring with a resident female, Bai Yun. The zoo has had success in the past with Hua Mei, the first giant panda cub born in the US.


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