USA

Amid an extremely heavy police presence, the World Economic Forum opened at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The five-day annual gathering of 3,000 top business and political leaders customarily deals with subjects ranging from reducing poverty to increasing global security. Despite concerns of violence by antiglobalization protesters, the first street demonstrations were peaceful and good-natured. Members of the environmental group Friends of the Earth held up cutouts of a popular quiz-show host and declared: "WEF, you are the weakest link - goodbye."

The US must be ready for attacks "vastly more deadly" than those of Sept. 11, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was expected to say in a speech to the National Defense University. In an advance text made available to journalists, Rumsfeld warned that the US was vulnerable to everything from computer hackers to assaults on military bases overseas to missiles aimed at its cities. To address that threat, the Bush administration has proposed a $48 billion increase in defense spending for 2003. Meanwhile, The Washington Times reported that intelligence agencies issued an internal alert within the past two weeks warning that Islamic militants were planning a major attack, with a nuclear facility as one possible target.

The US intends to hold Iran, Iraq, and North Korea accountable if they pursue weapons of mass destruction, President Bush warned in a speech in Daytona Beach, Fla. "The rest of the world needs to be with us," he added. In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, the president singled out those nations as an "axis of evil." The brief visit to Florida, and a later stop in Georgia, was aimed at stirring support for civic activist groups such as the USA Freedom Corps. Bush urged retired teachers, police, and physicians to lend their experience to the campaign against terrorism.

A severe winter storm blamed for at least 14 deaths dumped heavy snow, sleet, and freezing rain from the central Plains to New England. Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating (R) declared disaster areas in 26 counties. Elsewhere, the storm knocked out power for 270,000 residents of Kansas City and more than 60,000 others in Michigan and Indiana. Schools were closed in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, and Nebraska. Above, a pair of teens skate the icy sidewalks of Independence, Mo.

After spending the night in a Rochester, N.Y., hospital, ex-US attorney general Janet Reno was released so she could return to Florida, where she's a candidate for governor. An aide said Reno experienced "a simple fainting spell" Wednesday night during a speech at the University of Rochester. Her health has been an issue in the precampaign stages because she has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, although she has said that would not limit her capacity to serve.

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