USA

Hurricane Wilma remained at Category 3 strength early Tuesday off the Atlantic coast, with 115 m.p.h. winds, after battering southern Florida Monday with unexpected force. The storm, which is blamed for at least six deaths, left 6 million people without electricity and blocked roads and highways with felled trees. President Bush, who is scheduled to survey damaged areas Thursday, promised to work closely with local and state authorities. Officials said it could take weeks to restore power. Wilma's remnants reinforced a nor'easter, a storm that brought heavy rain, high waves, and coastal flood warnings, to parts of New England and New Jersey.

Part of San Diego International Airport was cleared Tuesday morning after baggage screeners found bomb components in a piece of carry-on luggage. Bomb threats had been reported earlier at two suburban Los Angeles airports.

Consumer confidence in the economy has fallen to a two-year low this month, the Conference Board said Tuesday of its surveys of US households. A spokesman cited recent hurricanes, high fuel prices, and a weakening labor market as factors in the dropoff from 87.5 to 85 in an index that has averaged 98.4 in the past five years.

Notes from a meeting between Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, indicate that Libby first learned the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame from his boss, The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing lawyers involved in the leak-investigation case as sources. The account differs from one earlier shared in grand jury testimony by Libby, a central figure in a criminal investigation of the leak. Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is expected to decide later this week whether to seek indictments in the case, a political hot potato since Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, has been critical of the Bush administration.

Civil rights pioneer and former seamstress Rosa Parks, who died at her Detroit home Monday, earned a place in history Dec. 1, 1955, when she refused a driver's order to move to the back of a Montgomery, Ala., bus. Her arrest for defying racial discrimination helped to galvanize a generation of activists, notably the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who led a boycott of the bus system.

Autopsies have confirmed that eight prisoners in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan were fatally abused, sometimes while being interrogated, the American Civil Liberties Union said Monday according to The Los Angeles Times.

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