USA

Major changes to clean air rules for utilities, refineries, and manufacturers were formally issued by the Bush administration Dec. 31, prompting a court challenge from a coalition of New England and mid-Atlantic states. The Environmental Protection Agency's easing of certain requirements of the Clean Air Act's "New Source Review" program was contrary to the legislation and "fundamentally injurious to the American public," said New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer. Seven states joined New York in the suit filed in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

US intelligence agencies have identified at least 15 cargo ships believed to be controlled by Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, The Washington Post reported. Government officials told the Post that US spy agencies keep tabs on some of the ships by satellites or surveillance planes and with the help of allies. But they sometimes lose track of the vessels, which could be used for a number of sinister purposes, the paper said.

Legislation to resume the military draft in the event of war with Iraq will be introduced next week by US Rep. Charles Rangel (D) of New York. In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Rangel said the prospect of a draft would make Congress less likely to support a war. President Bush opposes a revival of the draft, which ended in 1973.

Global Crossing's founder and chairman resigned Dec. 31. In a letter to the board, Gary Winnick said he was stepping down after helping to form a reorganization plan for the bankrupt telecommunications firm and making good on his pledge to reimburse $25 million to employees who owned company stock in their retirement plans.

Attorneys for United Airlines machinists planned to file a motion in bankruptcy court Dec. 31, outlining the union's objections to a 13 percent pay cut that the carrier wants to impose. United has asked the judge in the case to nullify labor contracts for any unions that don't agree to its $2.4 billion wage-giveback plan, with a ruling expected by Jan. 10.

An in-depth review concludes that Tyco International routinely inflated profits, but that its "aggressive" accounting practices were "not necessarily improper" and had no material affect on overall profits. The report is the result of a five-month internal inquiry by a team of 125 accountants and lawyers. The vast conglomerate, which previously disclosed $2.8 billion in accounting errors, said it would take an additional pretax charge of $382 million. Tyco remains under investigation by federal regulators and several of its former top executives stand charged with fraud and corruption.

New Year's Eve festivities were scaled back or canceled in many communities across the United States, with tight budgets and sparse sponsorship replacing security as the top concern. First Night festivals, family events that emphasize the arts, were to be held in 139 cities, 21 fewer than in 2001. However, in New York's Times Square, the fireworks display canceled a year ago was again on the schedule as part of a $1 million celebration. City officials said undercover police officers would be interspersed through the crowd and snipers would be watching from rooftops to ensure security.

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