In talks at the Bush ranch in Texas, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah was expected to urge the administration to moderate perceived US support for Israel in the latter's military campaign against Palestinian militants. Bush, meanwhile, was seeking Saudi backing for the US counterterrorism war. One analyst said their first face-to-face summit was shaping up as a "high noon" meeting of contradictory expectations.

Roman Catholic cardinals were returning to the US from their unprecedented two-day meeting at the Vatican, having decided against a "zero tolerance" policy for parish priests who sexually abuse minors. The gathering decided to punish only repeat offenders. They also reaffirmed the policy of priestly celibacy. Reports said the fate of Boston Archbishop Bernard Law, who's accused of mishandling sex-abuse cases, was not discussed in the group's meetings with Pope John Paul II, despite pressure for his resignation. (Story, page 2; editorial, page 10.)

Saying "we're committed to ending the INS as we know it," Attorney General Ashcroft urged House passage of a bill that would divide the Immigration and Naturalization Service in two. A vote was expected late Thursday. The Bush administration would like changes such as whom the president can appoint to head the agencies. Ashcroft called it "an important first step essential to the journey's end, but not sufficient to get us there."

At least 21 people were reported hurt in an explosion that collapsed part of an eight-story building in Manhattan, as the Monitor went to press. Federal officials in New York said the blast did not appear terrorism related.

A fund-raiser for the Democratic National Committee featured Michael Jackson (above), Tony Bennett, Diana Ross, and ex-President Clinton, among other celebrities. The Wednesday night event at the historic Apollo Theater in New York's Harlem section marked the launch of a nationwide voter-registration drive.

A Massachusetts jury convicted Michael McDermott of first degree murder in a Christmas 2000 shooting spree that left seven co-workers dead. With Wednesday's verdict, jurors rejected the defense argument that McDermott was insane when he opened fire at the Wakefield, Mass., offices of Edgewater Technology. McDermott was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

An additional 250 firefighters were to more than double the effort to protect hundreds of homes in Bailey, Colo., from a fast-spreading wildfire. The Forest Service estimated the blaze had consumed at least 1,800 acres.

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