USA

In a diplomatic push for the Bush administration's policies on Iraq and North Korea, senior officials were headed to Asia and Europe. Secretary of State Powell will stop in Tokyo and Beijing - China is one of North Korea's few allies and an advocate at the UN of more time for arms inspectors in Iraq - before attending the Feb. 25 inauguration of South Korea's new president in Seoul, US officials said. Iraq also will be among the main topics as Treasury Secretary Snow meets today with senior British officials in London before traveling to Paris for a conference of the Group of Seven industrial nations.

Formally launching his campaign for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, US Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri told a crowd in St. Louis he would repeal Bush's tax cuts, if elected. Two other Democrats, meanwhile, were filing papers on exploratory committees, a first step in joining the race. Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois, the first black woman elected to the US Senate, told supporters it's time to "take the 'men only' sign" off the White House. Also filing was US Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, a vocal opponent of war with Iraq.

A list of 20 top donors to Osama bin Laden, handwritten notes from the Al Qaeda leader, and details on how his terrorist group formed and grew are among documents seized in a raid a year ago at the Bosnia offices of Muslim charity Benevolence International Foundation, newly unsealed court records show. The charity's founder, Enaam Arnout, pleaded guilty last week in Chicago to illegally buying clothing for Muslim forces in Bosnia and in Russia's separatist Chechnya region. US officials refuse to identify the 20 donors, but say the list is among evidence used to freeze $124.5 million in assets of alleged terrorist groups.

Cleanup costs mounted as the Northeast clears massive snowfalls from the Presidents' Day storm, with states and cities wondering how they'll stretch already overburdened budgets. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) estimated $20 million in snow removal costs, and new Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) cited a figure of up to $30 million for his state.

Warning "there is no secret way to get out of paying taxes," the Internal Revenue Service said Americans should be alert to scams that promise to do just that as the April 15 filing deadline approaches. Among the "dirty dozen" most common schemes, it said, are offshore transactions and tax "advisers" who offer help, for a fee, to file for slavery reparations, Social Security tax refunds, or deduction of all personal expenses via phony home-based businesses.

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