USA

After a grueling eight-day, eight-nation Asian tour, Secretary of State Powell returned Saturday from a trip designed to bolster international support for the US-led war on terrorism. His counterterror message was strongly embraced in Indonesia and Malaysia – two nations where such concerns are greatest. Powell also worked to press nuclear neighbors India and Pakistan into a dialogue over disputed Kashmir, and had an unexpected meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-Sun.

A previously undisclosed tape of emergency radio transmissions from Sept. 11 shows that firefighters reached the burning 78th floor of World Trade Center's south tower – nearly 30 floors higher than officials had estimated. The New York Times reported Sunday that four people who have listened to the tape say that the rescuers were helping the injured before the tower collapsed. The tape, which may be used as evidence in the trial of alleged conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, remains confidential.

Senate Democrats blamed pharmaceutical and insurance companies, and Republicans, for derailing the Medicare prescription drug-benefit plan just before the August recess. Democrats say a House proposal passed by Republicans in June "would do absolutely nothing" to reduce the price of prescriptions for older Americans. Lawmakers on both sides said they will try again to reach a compromise when they return to Capitol Hill in September.

Al Gore issued a firm rebuke to his former running mate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D) of Connecticut, and other critics, arguing in the New York Times op-ed page that his populist message in the 2000 campaign was the right one. Gore maintained that his "people vs. the powerful" statement remains "the central dynamic" of today's political debate. Gore's response came on the heels of Lieberman's complaint that Gore's populist message cost the Democrats the support of independent swing voters. Gore also lashed out at President Bush, claiming that the administration has "used its power in the wrong way."

Four deaths in Louisiana, apparently from the West Nile virus, prompted Gov. Mike Foster (R) to declare a state of emergency. A massive insecticide-spraying campaign was launched this week in 18 of the state's 64 parishes. Federal health officials expressed concerned that the disease has spread rapidly.

US officials said that Washington's long-standing "one China" policy has not changed, despite Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's support for a referendum on independence. Chen claims that Taiwan and China are seperate countries, while China regards the island as a runaway province.

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