USA

Legislation that allots $4.6 billion to guard against bioterrorism was signed by President Bush. "We must be better prepared to prevent, identify, and respond" to such attacks, he said, citing the anthrax-tainted letters that killed five people last fall. The measure contains funding to stockpile vaccines, as well as to improve food inspections and security around water systems. Bush also urged Congress to expedite approval of his proposed Cabinet-level Homeland Security Department.

Finalization and adoption of a new national policy on sexual abuse by clergy will be the main focus for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which opens today in Dallas. In the past few months, allegations of abuse and sexual impropriety have led to the resignation or suspension of dozens of priests and four bishops. Two of the latter stepped down Tuesday in Kentucky and suburban New York.

Firefighters trying to control an 87,000-acre blaze threatening 2,500 homes in the southwestern suburbs of Denver planned to build fire lines and set backfires Wednesday. That effort earlier had been considered too dangerous. The fast-moving, wind-driven blaze is the largest in Colorado history, and one of at least eight burning in the state.

Laid-off Enron Corp. workers voiced general satisfaction with a tentative deal that would add $29 million in severance pay to the $43 million already awarded. The agreement is to be presented to a New York bankruptcy judge. It also gives former employees the right to sue to regain as much as $85 million in retention bonuses Enron paid those it deemed essential staff, days before filing for bankruptcy in December.

A jury in Miami awarded $37.5 million in damages to a 30-year former cigarette smoker now diagnosed as terminally ill. A lawyer for Philip Morris Cos., one of three tobacco companies involved in the suit, said it shouldn't have come to trial. It was an outgrowth of a $145 billion award in a class-action suit filed on behalf of Florida smokers, which the tobacco industry is appealing.

In Roseau, Minn., National Guard troops and volunteers built sandbag dikes to protect homes and businesses from the flooded Roseau River (below). As much as 12 inches of rain has fallen in northwest Minnesota since the weekend, with more in the forecast. Flooding also affected parts of North Dakota, Vermont, and Manitoba, Canada.

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