USA

The Northeast's first storm of the season dumped as much as three feet of snow. The powerful and slow-moving system brought blizzard-like winds and coastal flooding to New England. It caused air-traffic delays throughout the Northeast, forced schools to postpone scheduled SAT exams and football championships, and kept shoppers away from stores at the height of the holiday gift-buying season. The chilly air extended south all the way to Florida, where Tallahassee bottomed out at 26 degrees F. early Sunday and the Panhandle city of Crestview reached 29.

China's premier Wen Jiabao was scheduled to arrive in the US seeking reassurances that the Bush administration would rein in rival Taiwan. He also was bracing for US criticism of Beijing's trade and currency policies. Still, Chinese officials stressed that overall Sino-US relations were stable ahead of the visit by Wen, the highest- ranking official to visit the US since March, when the Beijing government wrapped up a sweeping transition of power to a younger generation. But Taiwan has emerged as a cloud over relations, along with China's swelling trade surplus with the US, expected to top $120 billion this year. Several members of Congress pressed the administration in a letter timed to the visit to raise the plight of Chinese human-rights dissidents.

Investigators said they believe the death of a federal prosecutor from Baltimore was the result of a personal relationship rather than being related to his work or to a random act of violence, the Baltimore Sun reported. The remains of Jonathan Luna' were found repeatedly stabbed in a Lancaster County, Pa., creek last week after he failed to appear at a drug-conspiracy trial. Authorities have largely discounted any link between Luna's slaying and the defendants in the ongoing trial. As a result, his death is expected to be investigated as a murder case by local prosecutors rather than as a case of federal kidnapping or the killing of a law-enforcement officer.

Housing and Urban Development chief Mel Martinez announced he'll resign his post to run for a US Senate seat in Florida. Martinez will be seeking the seat being vacated by the retiring Democratic incumbent, Bob Graham, next year. Florida, where President Bush's disputed victory in 2000 gave him the presidency, is again seen as key to his reelection hopes. Having the Cuban-American Martinez on the ballot could help Bush with Hispanic voters, political analysts said. Meanwhile, Democratic leaders and presidential candidates pledged to avenge their 2000 loss in Florida at the state Democratic Party convention over the weekend in Lake Buena Vista. Former US Rep. Carrie Meek (D) set the tone with a plea for "a leader to help us get revenge" for Al Gore's defeat in 2000.

A businessman won a runoff election for mayor of Houston Saturday in his first try for political office. Bill White, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party spent $2.2 million of his own fortune as part of a record $8.6 million effort in the race against Cuban-born Orlando Sanchez, a Republican making a second bid to become the city's first Hispanic chief executive. White received 62 percent of the votes, to Sanchez's 37 percent. The race was a rare Democratic victory in Texas, the president's home state, where Republicans hold every major statewide elected office.

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