USA

The White House reacted cautiously to the Palestinian Authority's arrest of 16 Hamas militants in the wake of Tuesday's suicide-bomb attack nearTel Aviv, Israel. "If people are engaged in murder ... a good government would arrest them and take it seriously and keep them locked up," spokesman Ari Fleischer said. The blast cut short a visit by Israel's prime minister and further complicated US efforts to arrange a Middle East peace conference. President Bush welcomed Yasser Arafat's condemnation of the blast Wednesday, but said he hoped the Palestianian leader's "actions now match his words." (Story, page 2.)

To curb potential conflicts of interest, stock analysts must disclose any shares in companies they recommend, and may not have pay by securities firms tied to investment-banking business, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruled. The new rules, approved Wednesday, are aimed at restoring investor confidence in the wake of the Enron scandal, although some critics say they don't do enough. The SEC also widened an inquiry into Dynegy Inc., the Houston-based energy firm.

Two people were reported dead as a violent storm – possibly a tornado – swept through a trailer park near Centralia, Ill., while in Missouri flooding was blamed for two deaths in a 24-hour period. Two weeks of rain also have left many farmers unable to plant. Above, tractors sit idle in a sodden field near Savoy, Ill. The state is the nation's second-largest corn producer, after Iowa.

Some 20 pieces of mail sent to the Federal Reserve tested positive for anthrax, the central bank said yesterday. The results, found during routine screening implemented in the wake of the anthrax-mail scare last fall, were preliminary, and further tests were being made. Some of the mail reportedly was addressed to Federal reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Miami's Roman Catholic archdiocese put two priests on temporary leave after they were named in a lawsuit for allegedly forcing boys to participate in group sex in the early 1970s. The move came as a victims- rights group appealed to US bishops to join their push for legislation to make it easier to prosecute abusive priests. Among other proposals, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests advocates extending the statute of limitations on such crimes.

New unemployment claims fell by a seasonally adjusted 11,000 to 411,000 last week, the Labor Department reported, in the third consecutive drop.

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