USA

Despite its statements to the contrary, the Bush administration has decided to go to war with Iraq and is quietly warning fellow UN Security Council members that opposition to a new resolution on military action would be regarded as "an unfriendly act," the Washington Post reported, citing US and diplomatic sources. Appearing to confirm the latter approach, US Ambassador Howard Leach said in a Paris TV interview that he hoped France would drop its opposition to the resolution because "a veto would be very unfriendly."

An Army Black Hawk helicopter crashed during training exercises in Kuwait, killing all four crew members on board, the US military said. Bad weather may have been a factor, officials said. More than 70,000 American troops are in the Persian Gulf state in preparation for possible war with Iraq.

Plaintiffs filed an immediate appeal after a lawsuit challenging Bush's authority to launch an attack on Iraq was dismissed by a federal court in Boston Monday. Ruling against the suit brought by six Democratic members of Congress, three unidentified servicemen, and the latter's parents, US District Judge Joseph Tauro found that the matter was a political, not judicial, decision.

At least three people were killed in a shooting at a temporary employment agency in Huntsville, Ala., that left two others wounded. A police SWAT team reportedly cornered a suspect shortly after the attack on the office of Labor Ready Inc., an agency whose home offices are in Tacoma, Wash.

Announcing a nationwide crackdown on purveyors of drug-use paraphernalia, Attorney General Ashcroft said 55 people have been charged and 11 internet businesses shut down as part of "Operation Pipe Dreams." The defendants include seven businesses based in Pennsylvania, Ashcroft said. They sold equipment ranging from tiny measuring scales to items disguised as lipsticks and hi-lighter pens.

In a challenge to the case against five people accused of conspiring to help Al Qaeda, a second day of testimony is expected Wednesday before a US District judge in Portland, Ore. Defense lawyers and civil liberties advocates want the Justice Department to justify the 36 secret warrants obtained by the FBI to monitor the suspects. The four men and one woman were arrested in October for allegedly trying to travel to Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Residents of Oklahoma and Arkansas were digging out after as much as 10 inches of snow fell in parts of both states. In neighboring Texas, sleet and freezing rain closed schools, businesses, and government offices and clogged roads.

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