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Attorney General Michael Mukasey opened a full criminal investigation Wednesday into the circumstances surrounding the CIA's 2005 destruction of videotapes showing tough interrogations of two Al Qaeda suspects. John Durham (right), a federal prosecutor with a mob-busting reputation, will oversee the probe.

Orders to US factories jumped 1.5 percent in November, the largest amount in four months, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Demand for big-ticket durable goods, however, fell by 0.1 percent.

In a move that rankled conservationists, the US Minerals Management Agency announced Wednesday that it will open up nearly 46,000 square miles in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast to petroleum leases in February. Opponents claim the sale was approved without sufficient information about climate change or impacts on polar bears and other animals.

In San Francisco, police investigating the mauling death of a visitor to the city's zoo by an escaped tiger said they were looking at whether alcohol was a factor or if the victim and two friends had taunted the animal.

Late-night TV hosts returned to the air Wednesday after a two-month hiatus during a still unsettled writers' strike. Although David Letterman's "Late Show" had its writers back, NBC's Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien and ABC's Jimmy Kimmel returned without their joke-writing teams.

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