USA

Antiwar activists planned more than 300 events nationwide at war memorials, federal buildings, and other sites to mark the announcement that the number of US military deaths in Iraq had reached 2,000. Candlelight vigils were scheduled in a number of cities, including Washington, near the White House.

The Bush adminstration's push to develop a controversial nuclear bunker-busting weapon has been dropped, said US Sen. Pete Domenici (R) of New Mexico, chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the Energy Department's budget. Instead, a conventional weapon, capable of penetrating deeply buried enemy targets, will be pursued.

Emergency officials urged Floridians to be patient as recovery efforts in the aftermath of hurricane Wilma took hold more slowly than had been hoped. By early Wednesday, only 13 percent of 4.3 utility customers who lost electricity had their lights back on and hours-long waits for gasoline, ice, bottled water, and fast food were reported in some areas. Preliminary damage estimates for south Florida range up to $10 billion, with some of the worst damage occurring in Fort Lauderdale, where windows were blown out of many high--rise buildings.

Responding to concerns about new electronic passports that the State Department will start issuing in December, federal officials said the design will be improved in two ways: Anti- skimming material will prevent remote reading of a holder's personal information, and a kind of personal ID number, which must be touched to unlock data in microchips, will prevent tracking of individuals.

Mayor Ray Nagin (D) of New Orleans told The Washington Post that infrastructure damage from hurricane Katrima means that only about half of the 500,000-odd residents can reasonably expect to reinhabit the city over the next year.

Three California airports where security-related disruptions occurred Tuesday quickly returned to normal. In San Diego, what luggage screeners had thought were bomb-making materials turned out to be a toy car and a cookie. Bomb threats at the Long Beach and Orange County airports also turned out to be false alarms.

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