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The top 5 stories of the week

Issue: "State of the Union 2003," Jan. 25, 2003
1
time is running out
Jan. 27 is apparently not good enough. Those UN weapons experts rummaging through Saddam Hussein's "palaces"-chief inspector Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency-say they need months more than they've been given to locate weapons of mass destruction. Their report on whether the dictator is hiding banned weapons is due next week. Britain and other U.S. allies want Washington to hold off on forcing regime change until the UN teams finish their mission. President Bush says he's "sick and tired" of the delays: "Time is running out." The Iraqi state-controlled news media are becoming impatient, too: "Iraqis are angry and agitated and some of them can no longer tolerate the sight of inspectors' teams," the newspaper Babil reported (Saddam's son Odai owns the paper). So far the inspectors claim they have no evidence of banned weapons; Mssrs. Blix and ElBaradei said they found "no smoking gun" after nearly two months of inspections at over 300 sites. But extra time could mean extra months added to military timelines. Duration of the inspections is critical to U.S. war plans. If Saddam is to be overthrown, commanders hope to fight in winter-rather than march through the 120-degree heat and raging sandstorms of the Iraqi summer.
2
we don't talk anymore
The White House desperately wants a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis. Singapore's Straits Times calls the Bush policy of bellicosity toward Baghdad and patience toward Pyongyang a "different-strokes-for-different-rogues approach." Yet the Stalinist dinosaur is not easily charmed. Invective still spews from North Korea's state-controlled media. U.S. offers of dialogue and possible aid were tossed aside as "loudmouthed" and "deceptive." Also, American soldiers spotted increased patrols by North Korean soldiers in part of the Demilitarized Zone. The United States keeps 37,000 troops in South Korea who are now major factors in the campaign to end a nuclear standoff. Kim Jong Il's regime threatens a "Third World War," "a sea of fire," and a "holy war" against the United States. While the country builds the bomb, it still relies on foreign aid to feed its 22 million people. The UN has promised even more help if North Korea keeps its nonproliferation promises. South and North Korean officials plan to hold Cabinet-level talks this month about the weapons program and other disputes.
3
$265 isn't chump change
They don't call it gridlock when Republicans control Congress. Democrats are busy blasting the president's $674 billion, 10-year economic plan. They say there are too many tax cuts for the rich. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle called it the "Leave No Millionaire Behind Act." And GOP Sens. John McCain and Lincoln Chafee joined the detractors. Mr. Bush's proposal would abolish federal taxes on stock dividends and speed up promised income-tax cuts. For example, Middle Americans, those earning $29,000 to $46,000, would enjoy an average tax saving of $265, according to the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. About 34 million parents would receive rebate checks. The White House plans an aggressive campaign for the plan, and officials point to unemployment figures as evidence that something needs to be done quickly. America lost 101,000 jobs last month-and the jobless rate stayed at an eight-year high of 6 percent. Meanwhile, some economists predict that the budget deficit may soar to $275 billion this year and to a record $325 billion next year.
4
blue light grows dim
Kmart plans to shut down stores across America once again. The company wants a Chicago bankruptcy court to approve 326 closings later this month. About 30,000 to 35,000 jobs will vanish, as the troubled chain drags itself out of Chapter 11 protection. One doomed location is in Rogers, Ark., across from the first Wal-Mart store that Sam Walton opened in 1962. The Michigan-based company, founded by S.S. Kresge in 1899, wants out of bankruptcy by the end of April. Its closings may help its competitors, who now have more breathing room in a crowded marketplace. Many expect Kmart to focus on urban areas where other chains are less common. The leaner Kmart will be one-third smaller than it was last year, still bigger than Target but just over half the size of Wal-Mart. Here's one big sign of hope: Kmart reported a profit of $349 million during the 2002 Christmas shopping season.
5
you lookin' at me?
Las Vegas mayor and former lawyer for notorious organized crime figures, Oscar Goodman may be heading back to court to defend the honor of his town. The NFL exercised a clause in its TV contract allowing the league to block gambling advertising during the Super Bowl telecast and rejected an ad touting Las Vegas tourism. Mr. Goodman told the city's visitor's bureau to prepare a lawsuit against the NFL. League officials said the NFL wanted nothing to do with the Las Vegas tourism ads because of the obvious ties to gambling. Meanwhile, Mayor Goodman has waged war against the league through the media. "The NFL doesn't have clean hands here," Mr. Goodman told USA Today. "They have the most dysfunctional group of athletes there are, their refs can't make a right call, and their organization is upside down, but they're offended by us?" The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority had planned to spend $2.1 million for a 30-second spot.

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