USA

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld (below) planned to meet with officials in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt, and Uzbekistan, key Muslim supporters of the war against terrorism, as the US prepares for likely military strikes. Before leaving Washington on the week-long mission, he ordered 1,000 Army troops to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which border Afghanistan, bringing to more than 30,000 the number of US troops overseas.

Treasury Secretary O'Neill said President Bush wants Congress to approve an economic stimulus plan of $60 billion to $75 billion to avert a recession triggered partly by the Sept. 11 attacks. He offered no specific tax breaks or spending proposals but said any plan should focus on short-term solutions, restore consumer demand, boost investment, and help those affected by the attacks. Congress earlier passed a $40 billion emergency-spending plan and a $15 billion airline aid package. O'Neill told the Senate Finance Committee he expects negative real growth in this quarter but said a poor performance could be avoided in the fourth quarter if consumer confidence rebounds.

Congressional leaders and the White House said they've agreed on new spending bills for fiscal 2002 that total $686 billion, or a third of the $2 trillion federal budget. The 13 new bills are $25 billion more than Bush proposed earlier, when he said he wanted to slow government growth. About $18 billion of the extra money is for the military, bringing its total spending to $345 billion. Of the rest, $4 billion will be added to Bush's $44.5 billion education budget. The bills for fiscal 2002 don't include funds for revitalizing the economy.

The number of layoffs announced in September reached a record high of 248,332 - a 77 percent increase over August figures, according to the Chicago outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Since the terrorist attacks, the number of layoffs skyrocketed - accounting for more than 200,000 of last month's total job losses. About 40 percent of the new cuts occurred in the transportation sector.

A Greyhound bus crashed near Manchester, Tenn., killing 10 of the 38 people aboard after a passenger reportedly killed the driver. The accident, which injured as many as 28 others, prompted Greyhound to halt all service as a precaution. The bus was en route from Louisville, Ky., to Atlanta. Witnesses said the assailant was among those killed.

CORRECTION: Contrary to earlier reports cited in this space Wednesday, acting Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift (R) appointed Col. John DiFava, head of the state police, as the temporary new manager of public safety for Boston's Logan International Airport. DiFava replaces Joseph Lawless.

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