USA

Flanked by 100 lawmakers, President Bush signed a resolution authorizing use of military force, if necessary, to disarm Iraq. "We will defend our nation and lead others in defending the peace," Bush said. The White House ceremony took place as the UN Security Council took up a US-backed resolution that spells out harsh consequences if Iraq fails to comply with a new round of weapons inspections.

Army jets equipped for high-tech surveillance are joining the hunt for a sniper in the Washington area. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld approved their use after an FBI intelligence specialist was killed in the 11th attack. That incident provided new and perhaps crucial clues, police said. The gunman was seen by at least one witness, the Washington Post reported, while others noted partial license-plate numbers on his van. Above, a Maryland state trooper checks a composite graphic of the vehicle at a press briefing.

In one of several measures given impetus by the sniper attacks, the House OK'd $1.1 billion to help states update a national database for background checks on gun buyers. A similar bill is stalled in the Senate. A report by advocacy group Americans for Gun Safety blamed faulty records for about 10,000 weapons purchases by people legally barred from owning them. "I pray that this utterly depraved man is not number 10,001," said Rep. Constance Morella (R) of Maryland, in whose district several attacks occurred.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down in morning trading Wednesday, after surging 378 points – the seventh-largest daily gain on record – in the previous session to close at 8,255. That brought the Dow's four-day advance to 969 points, or 13.3 percent. The Nasdaq and Standard & Poors indexes also made gains. Economists disagreed, however, on whether the rally heralded an end to the months-long market downturn or was a temporary respite.

With teary goodbyes, the crew of the shuttle Atlantis wrapped up a week-long visit to the International Space Station. The mission featured three spacewalks to attach a 14-ton girder for the station's air conditioning system.

A Continental Airlines pilot who did not appear "fit for duty" was kept from boarding a flight from Houston to Orlando, Fla., the carrier said. A spokeswoman said alcohol was involved in the incident, which was reported to the Federal Aviation Administration. The unnamed pilot was removed from service pending a review.

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