USA

In a speech viewed as one of his most pivotal, President Bush said Iraq had shown "utter contempt" for UN weapons inspections and vowed to act unilaterally, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein's regime. Secretary of State Powell will present evidence that Iraq is concealing weapons and of its links to Al Qaeda to the UN Feb. 5, Bush said. In Tuesday night's State of the Union address, he also pledged $15 billion in US help to combat AIDS in Africa and outlined an aggressive domestic agenda, including tax-cuts, a Medicare overhaul, and limits on medical-malpractice awards. He also urged Congress to ban human cloning and "partial birth" abortions.

America is "headed in the wrong direction" under Bush, Gov. Gary Locke (D) of Washington said in delivering the Democratic response. Senate minority leader Tom Daschle (D) of South Dakota told NBC that Bush needs to provide "a lot better evidence" that Iraq is an imminent threat.

Federal Reserve policymakers were expected to leave interest rates unchanged in an announcement due as the Monitor went to press. Economists said concerns about war with Iraq and an anticipated rise in the 6 percent unemployment rate likely will prompt the central bank to hold a key short-term rate at its 41-year low for several more months.

Legislation to fund a national "do not call" list for telemarketers was expected to win approval by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and to proceed to the House floor. Rep. Billy Tauzin (R) of Louisiana, the panel's chairman, decided to back language similar to the Senate's version, a spokesman said, making it likely that the registry will come into being by summer.

A teacher who told students she opposes interracial unions was fired by the school board in Crystal City, Mo., Tuesday. Eighth-grade teacher Jendra Loeffelman said she had voiced an honest opinion, based on concerns that the children of such couples might be teased.

Authorities in Utah were trying to find the family of a small boy abandoned Saturday in a Salt Lake City discount store. Social workers said the boy, thought to be no more than 4, told them his name is Jacob, but couldn't give a last name or address. A surveillance tape showed a man entering the store with the child and soon after, leaving alone.

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