USA

Rallying troops and the public amid reports of heavy fighting in Iraq, President Bush said "I can assure you there will be a day of reckoning for Iraq, and that day is drawing near," during a visit to Central Command headquarters near Tampa, Fla. After lunching with US soldiers, Bush was heading to a summit with his top ally on the war, British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Responding to a sex-abuse scandal at its elite academy, the Air Force announced the removal of four top officers at the Colorado Springs, Colo., facility. Dozens of women who claimed they were raped or assaulted by fellow cadets accused the academy of failing to properly address their complaints. Fifty-six such cases were reported in the past decade. Stepping down are academy superintendent Gen. John Dallager; Col. Robert Eskridge; Brig. Gen. Taco Gilbert, the academy's second-in-command; and Col. Laurie Slavec.

The Senate was expected to approve a $2.2 trillion federal budget for 2004 as the Monitor went to press, a day after minority Democrats, joined by three Republicans, voted to cut Bush's proposed $726 billion tax cut to $350 billion. Proponents argued that the proposal is too large, given the $75 billion in emergency funding Bush requested for the war with Iraq.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld state programs that pay for legal services for the poor with interest from pooled trust and escrow accounts set up by lawyers. Property-rights advocates had filed a challenge in Washington, calling the practice unconstitutional. The programs, known as Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts, are used in every state and raised $162 million nationwide in 2001.

Orders for durable goods, those made to last at least three years, fell 1.2 percent in February, the Commerce Department reported. It was the biggest decline in three months. A separate economic report showed sales of new homes declined 8.1 percent last month to the lowest level since August 2000.

The former mayor of Waterbury, Conn., was convicted of molesting two preteen girls by a federal jury Tuesday. Philip Giordano was charged with violating their civil rights. While monitoring Giordano's cellphone in a corruption probe, FBI agents heard him arranging encounters with the girls.

A state ethics commission accused Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton (D) of rules violations Tuesday, saying it found probable cause he helped a construction company owned by a former paramour. Patton has acknowledged having had an affair with Tina Conner, but denies using his office to help or harm her businesses.

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