Bush pardons 29, but not Libby

WASHINGTON - President Bush granted pardons yesterday to carjackers, drug dealers, a moonshiner, and an election-laws violator, but not to I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former top aide, who was convicted in the CIA leak case.

In all, Bush pardoned 29 convicts and reduced the prison term of one more in the end-of-the-year presidential tradition.

Justice Department spokesman Erik Ablin said Bush has granted 142 pardons and commuted five sentences since taking office in 2001. That lags far behind the pace set by most modern presidents.

Bush, who in July commuted Libby's 21/2-year sentence, was not expected to issue any more pardons this year. A pardon amounts to federal forgiveness for one's crime; a commutation cuts short an existing prison term.

- AP

GOP retains two House seats

Republicans kept control of two congressional seats that were up for grabs in special elections yesterday in Ohio and Virginia, disappointing Democrats who had hoped to add to their majority in the House.

In Ohio's Fifth District, State Rep. Bob Latta, whose father earlier held the seat for 30 years, defeated Democrat Robin Weirauch, who was making her third run for the seat. Latta will succeed Paul Gillmor, who died in September.

In Virginia, Rob Wittman, a first-term Republican state legislator, easily defeated Democrat Philip Forgit, a teacher and Iraq military veteran, to fill the vacancy created when Rep. Jo Ann Davis died in October.

- AP

Video gamers get the word

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Expect cheers among hard-core online game enthusiasts when they learn Merriam-Webster's word of the year. Or, more accurately, expect them to

w00t

.

W00t

, a hybrid of letters and numbers used by gamers as an exclamation of happiness, topped all other terms in the dictionary publisher's online poll for the word that best sums up 2007. Merriam-Webster's president, John Morse, said

w00t

was an ideal choice because it blends whimsy and new technology.

Gamers commonly substitute numbers and symbols for the letters they resemble, Morse said, creating what they call "l33t speak" - that's

leet

when spoken, short for

elite

to the rest of the world.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Teens' use of illicit drugs

continued to gradually fall overall this year, but the use of prescription painkillers remains popular among young people, according to a federally financed study released yesterday at the White House.

Six young people were shot

yesterday after they stepped off a bus that had left a Las Vegas high school, with at least two of them critically hurt, in an attack just blocks from two elementary schools, authorities said. At least two people are believed to have taken part, police said.

The Marianas

in the western Pacific, a commonwealth tainted by past associations with lobbyist Jack Abramoff and reports of sweatshop labor, would come under greater federal immigration and labor-law controls under legislation that passed the House by voice vote yesterday.