The Supreme Court decided against granting Microsoft another opportunity to avoid punishment for antitrust violations tied to its widely used Windows software. The court, without comment, declined to accept an appeal from the company that would have forestalled yet-unspecified penalties. The case is in the hands of a lower court judge, and settlement talks are taking place. Microsoft had asked the justices to disqualify conclusions made by original federal judge Thomas Penfield Jackson after an appeals court threw out his order to break up the company. Jackson also was removed him from the case for reasons of bias. But the appeals court agreed Micro-soft should be punished for antitrust violations.

The High Court also refused to be drawn into a dispute over whether cities can sue gun makers for millions of dollars in crime costs, protecting them from a round of government litigation. New Orleans was the first city to file a suit accusing gun makers of selling unsafe products. The case was blocked when the Louisiana Legislature banned such suits; 26 other states passed similar laws. The justices declined without comment to review a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling that upheld that state's prohibition.

As the US launched its third straight day of aerial attacks on Afghanistan targets, Pentagon officials repeated assertions that bombing alone would not defeat Osama bin Laden or the Taliban regime that shelters him. But they said the attacks had caused significant damage to terrorist camps and Taliban defenses. Meanwhile, the Pentagon plans to send additional ground troops to the Middle East and Central Asia by week's end for the second phase of its campaign against Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported. The deployment was not a prelude to a full-scale ground attack, an official said.

Three physicists won the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics for freezing matter into a new state that may help make microscopic computers and revolutionize aircraft guidance. Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman of the US and Germany's Wolfgang Ketterle won the $1 million prize for creating an ultrapure and coherent form of matter in the same way lasers are a pure type of light.

Federal officials said foul play rather than an environmental source is at the root of two Florida anthrax cases that resulted in one death and the testing of more than 700 coworkers for symptoms of the disease. The FBI sealed off the offices of American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, where both men worked. Newsweek reported the office, which houses the offices of several tabloid newspapers, recently received a suspicious letter containing a "soapy, powdery substance." Above, FBI agents pour liquid into a drum near the building.

CORRECTION: An item in this space Tuesday erred in citing the number of home runs hit by Mark McGwire in 1998. The St. Louis Cardinals star finished that season with 70, the major league record until it was broken last week by Barry Bonds.

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