THE WEEK THAT WAS

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The World

The U.S. trade deficit hit an all-time high of $60.3 billion in November as American appetites for foreign oil and even imported food reached record levels. The Bush administration urged other countries to help fix the problem, but analysts said the yawning deficit won't be so easily solved.

The Nation

President Bush tapped federal appellate judge Michael Chertoff, a zealous former prosecutor who helped craft the nation's legal strategy for combating terrorism, to lead the sprawling Department of Homeland Security, calling him "a practical organizer, a skilled manager and a brilliant thinker."

In a ruling that drastically overhauls the way the nation's federal defendants are sentenced, the U.S. Supreme Court found the current system unconstitutional and said judges will no longer be required to follow the 17-year-old federal sentencing guidelines. In its 5-4 ruling, the court specifically criticized a routine practice under the system in which a judge may increase a defendant's prison time based on evidence a jury has not considered - the amount of drugs a defendant possessed, for instance, or whether he was the ringleader of a gang. The court ruled that juries should consider these factors.

The White House acknowledged that its hunt for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, a two-year search costing millions of dollars, has closed down without finding the stockpiles that President Bush cited as justification for overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Bush's spokesman said the president had no regrets about invading Iraq.

The Region

The Maryland General Assembly voted to override Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s veto of a medical malpractice reform bill, rebuffing an intense lobbying effort by the governor and setting a tense tone for the 90-day session. Democrats praised themselves for bridging divides between the House and Senate to craft a solution to the malpractice crisis. The legislation, which now becomes law, limits increases in doctors' malpractice insurance premiums and subjects HMOs to a tax now paid by other health insurers.

Quote

"In my heart of hearts, I know the governor is upstairs thanking someone above that we overrode the veto, because we solved a major problem for him."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller,on passage of Maryland medical malpractice legislation

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