USA

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday that he'd consider sending more troops to Afghanistan in anticipation of a spring offensive by Taliban insurgents. Gates made the comment while visiting Afghanistan, where 22,000 US troops are stationed. In discussing her recent trip to Iraq on morning TV talk shows, US Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) of New York registered her support of a troop buildup in Afghanistan but not Iraq. "Let's focus on Afghanistan and get it right," she said.

The Producer Price Index, which measures cost pressures before they reach consumers, rose 0.9 percent in December, the Labor Department reported Wednesday. For all of 2006, wholesale prices were up just 1.1 percent, a sharp decrease from a 5.4 percent surge in 2005.

Seeking to make severe weather warnings less disruptive to population centers not likely to be affected, the National Weather Service said that, beginning Oct. 1, countywide warnings will be dropped in favor of more geographically specific ones. To better delineate where tornadoes, thunderstorms, or flash floods are expected, the service will describe the locations using landmarks such as highways or rivers. It anticipates this change could be especially helpful in states such as Texas, where some counties are bigger than Rhode Island.

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman said Tuesday that testing of its antimissile system has begun on nine FedEx cargo planes. The equipment is designed to defend against shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles during takeoffs and landings by disrupting their guidance signals with lasers.

Environmental officials in New York and New Jersey said Tuesday that their efforts to establish the source of a mysterious odor that wafted over much of the New York metropolitan area a week ago came up blank. More than 100 industrial facilities were checked. Unless the smell returns, the officials said they are finished with the matter.

Officials in California, where capital punishment was put on hold last February, said they would submit revised lethal injection procedures to a federal judge by May 15. The judge halted executions, ruling that executioners were poorly trained and failed to properly mix a fatal three-drug dose.

The Drug Enforcement Agency said Tuesday that it had managed to shut down a Colombian ring that smuggled heroin and other drugs into New York, Baltimore, and Detroit by arresting 117 suspected members of the ring. Couriers who arrived in New York on commercial flights stashed drugs in the soles of their shoes or swallowed heroin pellets, the DEA said.

The Supreme Court refused to review an eminent-domain case brought by a Port Chester, N.Y., businessman who sought to block the town from seizing his downtown property to build a drugstore as part of a $100 million development.

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