USA

Security was tightened at airports, subways, and hotels in New York, at last night's All-Star basketball game in Atlanta, and at nuclear power plants in California and Washington State after the Bush administration warned that members of Al Qaeda may be plotting a new attack. Attorney General Ashcroft raised the national terror alert Friday from yellow to orange - its second-highest level.

By sending the message that the UN is divided on Iraq, France and Germany make war more likely, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said in Munich, Germany, Saturday. He called it "shameful" that those states and Belgium have blocked NATO deployments to fellow member Turkey - which borders Iraq. Rumsfeld spoke as tens of thousands of antiwar demonstrators rallied in the city. Meanwhile, 78 passenger and cargo jets from 22 airlines are to assist in the buildup of US forces in the Persian Gulf, the Defense Department said. Participating carriers include United, American, Delta, Federal Express, and DHL.

In a speech sharply critical of the Bush administration, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts accused the president and vice president of catering to oil companies on energy policy, and of allowing corporate lobbyists to rewrite antipollution laws for air, water, and land. Kerry's remarks, for an address in Boston Sunday night, were made public in advance and came as President Bush was discussing his domestic and foreign policy agenda with GOP lawmakers at a retreat in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

In a major shift, the online arms of top retailers such as Wal-Mart, Toys 'R' Us, and Target have begun charging sales tax voluntarily on purchases in 37 states and in Washington DC. Many states, hit by record budget deficits, are demanding a cut of online sales. Fixed-location stores want assurances, however, that tax rules also apply to their Web-based counterparts.

In legal victories for tobacco companies, juries rejected claims that they were liable for smoking-related illnesses Friday in cases in Miami and in Sacramento, Calif. In the latter, smoker Laurence Lucier accused Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds of selling a harmful and addictive product. In the former case, a United Airlines flight attendant blamed secondhand smoke for an aggravated illness.

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