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In advance of President Bush's State of the Union address, which was expected to lay the groundwork for, but stop short of declaring, war on Iraq, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said a further UN resolution is "desirable but it is not mandatory." Following Monday's report by weapons inspectors to the UN Security Council, Secretary of State Powell said, "we can't ... just keep kicking the can down the road." And, while administration officials continued to say there's no specific deadline, many analysts predict war may be under way by late February.

"I know what it's like to need a job" - and what it takes to create them - Treasury Secretary nominee John Snow said in a prepared statement as his Senate confirmation hearings opened. Snow was expected to face tough questions over stock sales and other dealings while he was head of CSX, the rail freight company. If approved, he'd be the administration's top advocate for a proposed $670 billion economic stimulus plan.

Oregonians cast ballots in a special referendum on whether to raise income taxes or slash state services, with the latest opinion polls indicating voters are evenly divided. Like many other states, Oregon is confronting its biggest budget shortfall in decades. A "no" vote would enact $310 million in cuts to education funding and services for the elderly and disabled, and lay off 129 state troopers.

Consumer confidence fell in January for a second straight month, the private Conference Board reported. The drop in the research group's closely watched index - to 79 from a revised 80.7 in December - was less than analysts had predicted, however.

Orders for durable goods and new home sales both rose in December, the Commerce Department said. Last month's 3.5 percent increase in sales of single-family homes contributed to an overall 8 percent rise for 2002 - the biggest on record. Durables, costly items built to last three years or more, inched up a smaller-than-expected 0.2 percent in December.

More than 800 doctors stayed away from their jobs in Florida, and a dozen more followed suit in Mississippi, in the latest in a string of protests against the rising cost of malpractice insurance. A proposal before Florida's legislature would limit pain-and-suffering awards to $250,000, which insurers say would help keep premiums in check. Lawyers' groups maintain that the caps are unconstitutional.

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