USA

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry won the New Hampshire primary, firmly claiming front-runner status after his first-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. The Massachusetts senator took 39 percent of the vote Tuesday. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean came in second with 26 percent. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina tied for third and Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut was fifth. The Democratic rivals quickly turned their attentions to the seven states that hold primaries Tuesday. Edwards has said one of them, his native South Carolina, is a must-win for his campaign.

In believing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, "We were almost all wrong - and I certainly include myself here," former US weapons inspector David Kay told a Senate hearing. But, Kay noted, there is evidence that Iraq was engaged in banned weapons programs. He also denied suggestions by Democratic lawmakers that intelligence analysts felt pressured by the Bush administration to inflate Iraq's capabilities to make a case for war. The issue of Iraq and a drive for autonomy by its ethnic Kurds were expected to dominate Wednesday's talks between President Bush and visiting Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

Factory orders for costly durable goods remained flat in December, the Commerce Department reported. The reading disappointed economists, who had anticipated a 2 percent rise. On a positive note, orders for durable goods - items meant to last at least three years - rose 2.8 percent for the year. New home sales also hit a record 1.09 million in 2003, up 11.5 percent from the previous year, a separate report said.

Amid such signs of an accelerating economy with low job growth, Federal Reserve policymakers were widely expected to leave interest rates unchanged at their first meeting of 2004. The key federal funds rate is at a 45-year low of 1 percent.

Cypress Gardens, the historic Florida tourist attraction, will reopen this summer after state officials agreed to an $11 million funding deal Tuesday with Georgia theme-park owner Kent Buescher. Faced with dwindling attendance, Cypress Gardens closed last April.

TV pioneer Jack Paar, who died Tuesday in Greenwich, Conn., is credited with developing the talk-show format as host of "The Tonight Show" from 1957 to 1962. Paar helped to launch careers of comedians such as Bill Cosby, Jonathan Winters, and Carol Burnett.

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