USA

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld warned North Korea that the US could "swiftly" win a war on the Korean peninsula even if it also was battling Iraq. In recent days, North Korea has dismantled UN surveillance cameras at nuclear power facilities and broken locks on a reprocessing plant for spent fuel rods, raising speculation that it is restarting its nuclear weapons program.

The FBI reminded law-enforcement officials to watch for attempts by terrorists to bring down commercial airplanes by exploding bombs hidden in their shoes or loose clothing. The advisory, timed for the first anniversary of the attempt to bring down a transatlantic flight by confessed Al Qaeda operative Richard Reid, said there was "no information to indicate a specific plot" but that officers should remain "alert to the possibility."

A majority of states will face deficits in excess of $60 billion next year, a new study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said. To balance budgets, governors in 11 states, among them California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, have proposed reductions in healthcare programs. Such cuts, the study said, would eliminate health insurance for about 1 million people.

New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey (D) signed the US's first "smart gun" law in a ceremony Monday. The controversial measure, which will not go into effect until appropriate technology is available, requires a special mechanism on handguns that will allow only their owners to fire them. Researchers say a viable "smart gun" prototype can be developed in about two years.

In his first such move, President Bush pardoned seven people convicted of relatively minor crimes. Bush thus became only the second president since World War II to wait two years to issue any pardons. None of the recipients was a major campaign donor, reports said.

A powerful winter storm that ripped through Western and Midwestern states was boring in on the Northeast as the Monitor went to press Tuesday. It delayed flights for thousands of holiday travelers. In northwestern Arkansas, an emergency was declared because of "extremely hazardous" roads after at least nine people died in highway accidents across the southern Plains. Weather reports predicted that 10 or more inches of snow would fall in the Northeast on Christmas, today, and possibly tomorrow as the storm moves into the region. Below, Enid, Okla., resident Michael Riley tries to shield himself from the snow.

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