Strong export sales of heavy machinery, computers, and farm goods weren't enough to offset a surge in imported cars that led to a 5.7 percent rise in the US trade deficit in February, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Analysts expected a US economic slowdown to shrink the demand for imported goods.

Officials orchestrating the San Francisco leg of the 20-nation torch relay Wednesday for this summer's Beijing Olympics rerouted and shortened the route to prevent disruptions by massive crowds. People who lined the presumed route were disappointed, and some scuffles broke out between protesters angered by China's human rights record and pro-Chinese groups.

The White Houses said that President Bush will attend the Beijing Olympics but that it's too early to know if he'll be present for the opening ceremony. On Wednesday, he urged Beijing to reach out to the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader whose followers have come into increasing conflict with Chinese authorities. The Dala Lama arrived in Seattle Thursday for a conference on compassion.

Charged with coming up with new ways to alert the public about emergencies, the Federal Communications Commission approved a plan Wednesday to create a nationwide alert system using text messages delivered to cellphones.

More than 100 college presidents and athletic directors submitted a letter to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Wednesday, expressing concerns that beer ads were "embarrassingly prominent" during telecasts of the men's NCAA basketball tournament.

The House approved a bill Wednesday that officially creates a 26-million-acre National Landscape Conservation System that will generate public awareness and protections for the "last places to experience the history and wild beauty of the American West."

For the first time Thursday, the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., permitted youngsters, ages 8 to 16, to attend free when accompanied by an adult pass holder. A ticket to the Masters, which runs through Sunday, is one of the most coveted in golf. The club says it's "serious about exposing" young people to the game.

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