USA

In a presentation critical to the Bush administration's policy on Iraq, Secretary of State Powell goes before the UN Security Council Wednesday with newly declassified intelligence data, seeking to persuade skeptical members that the Baghdad government has flouted the order to disarm and has links to Al Qaeda. A bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders, some of whom support calls for more time for UN inspections, will be given a private briefing on the materials, which reportedly include photographs of mobile bioweapons labs.

The president, first lady, and members of Congress joined 10,000 other people at a memorial for the shuttle Columbia astronauts in Houston. Recovery teams, meanwhile, excavated what is believed to be the spacecraft's nose cone near Hemphill, Texas, and searched the a nearby reservoir for a truck-sized object seen falling Saturday. Wreckage is being sent to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and a military base in Fort Worth for study.

North Korea's nuclear ambitions were the focus, as Secretary Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice held separate meetings with visiting South Korean envoy Chyung Dai-chul. The adviser to South Korea's president-elect has already met with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who is weighing whether to deploy long-range bombers and surveillance aircraft to the region.

Famous 1960s-era music producer Phil Spector was arrested in connection with the death of a woman at his mansion in Alhambra, Calif., then freed on $1 million bail. Police responding Monday to a report of gunfire inside the home found the remains and, reportedly, a gun. Spector has hired attorney Robert Shapiro of O.J. Simpson trial fame.

Car and truck sales slid an average of almost 2 percent last month, major automakers reported. That was less than some analysts had expected. Sales of General Motors vehicles fell 2.5 percent from last year, Chrysler's by 12 percent, Toyota 6 percent, and Volkswagen about 17 percent; Ford and Honda posted increases.

In the best showing by major US airlines since 1995, flights arrived on schedule or close to it 82 percent of the time last year, the Transportation Security Administration reported. It also said passenger complaints fell by 43 percent. Balancing that, however, was the fact that many of them have cut flights, thus reducing congestion.

A controversial crow-hunting tournament in Auburn, N.Y., ended with 380 dead birds and four arrests. Animal rights activists from as far away as Illinois protested the event. In their defense, some hunters said they acted as conservationists, since crows prey on the eggs of other birds.

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