USA

The nation is at a "significant" - or yellow - level of danger from terrorist attacks, Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge said in announcing a new color-coded alert system. The five-stage system was developed partly in reponse to complaints that alerts issued since Sept. 11 were too vague to be helpful. The mildest warning is green, followed by blue, yellow, orange, and red. The nation is likely to stay at the yellow level for the foreseeable future, Ridge said. (Related story, page 1; editorial, page 8.)

Wrapping up 11 months of negotiations, Boston's Roman Catholic Archdiocese reached a settlement with dozens of people who say they were sexually molested by defrocked priest John Geoghan. The attorney, who represents 86 alleged victims or their family members called the settlement "a giant step in the healing process of my clients." Details were not available at press time, but the settlement reportedly totals between $15 million and $30 million.

Completing NASA's most challenging service call, the shuttle Columbia and its seven-man crew returned to Earth just before dawn Tuesday, ending the Hubble Space Telescope repair mission. The crew spent the past week working on Hubble, installing $172 million worth of new gear, including an advanced optical camera capable of peering across the universe almost to the beginning of time.

A formal decision on charges against accounting firm Arthur Andersen is expected as early as tomorrow. The Washington Post reported that federal prosecuters have told Andersen officials they intend to charge the firm with obstruction of justice for failing to prevent document shredding after it learned Enron's accounting procedures were under investigation. Andersen's lawyers have been in negotiations with the Justice Department to try to avoid criminal charges.

The leader of Uzbekistan met with President Bush at the White House, underscoring central Asia's importance as a potential sphere of influence for the US. In the short term, analysts expect the US military to expand its presence there and in other ex-Soviet republics, despite Russia's worry over the growing American influence and reciprocal concerns about human rights violations.

Late-night TV host David Letterman announced he was renewing his contract with CBS. ABC's "Nightline" host Ted Koppel, whose program would have been replaced by Letterman, expressed bitterness over ABC's bid.

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