Bush to Seek Dividend Tax Cut

In Stepped-Up Stimulus Package

President Bush has nearly doubled the size of an economic stimulus package he will propose next week in an effort to jumpstart the economy ahead of his reelection bid, administration officials said.

Republican officials said the White House had repeatedly signaled that the package, the centerpiece of which will be a cut in dividend taxes, would cost $300 billion over 10 years. But a senior administration official said that Bush will announce a package costing $500 billion to $600 billion over a decade.

Democrats immediately attacked Bush's plan. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said 25 percent of the dividend tax credit would go to Americans earning $1 million a year and that some of the companies that would benefit from it do not pay taxes.

The components of Bush's plan appeared to remain somewhat in flux. Bush was to finalize the package over the weekend or on Monday, the officials said.

Other parts of the package include an extension of unemployment benefits, provisions allowing businesses to take deductions on their equipment purchases more quickly, and some relatively small acceleration of income tax cuts enacted in 2001 and scheduled for 2004.

-- Dana Milbank, Mike Allen

and Juliet Eilperin

New Drug Reduces Effects

Of Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn's

A new type of experimental drug appears promising for treating two devastating illnesses caused by the immune system attacking parts of the body: multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease.

The drug, called Antegren, significantly reduced the number of new brain lesions and relapses in patients suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) and improved the conditions of patients suffering from Crohn's, an intestinal disease, according to two new studies published together.

The findings suggest that a new strategy for controlling the immune system, designed to be more targeted, could provide a better means of treating a host of so-called autoimmune diseases, such as MS, Crohn's and rheumatoid arthritis.

Autoimmune diseases are a class of illnesses in which the immune system attacks the body for reasons that remain unclear. In MS, which afflicts an estimated 400,000 Americans, the immune system attacks the coating around nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing an often progressive, crippling loss of motor control. In Crohn's, cells lining the intestines are attacked, causing severe abdominal pain, fever, ulcers and other problems that can become disabling. As many as 1 million Americans are estimated to have Crohn's or ulcerative colitis.

Although there are a few treatments for the diseases, none is very effective and all can have side effects.

-- Rob Stein

U.N. Further Curtails

Items That Iraq Can Import

The U.N. Security Council adopted a U.S.-sponsored resolution that tightens regulations on Iraqi imports of some viruses, flight simulators, communications equipment and high-speed motorboats that have potential military applications.

The 15-nation council voted 13 to 0 to add the items to a 302-page list of products that require Security Council approval before they can be imported into Iraq. Russia and Syria abstained in the first open sign of council division on Iraq policy since it unanimously passed a resolution in November demanding Iraq submit to the resumption of U.N. inspections.

Washington failed to win council support for one its most important initiatives: a proposal to regulate Iraqi imports of atropine, a standard heart drug that also is a nerve agent antidote. Citing concerns that Baghdad may be purchasing large quantities of atropine in preparation for a chemical weapon attack against American troops, U.S. officials argued that the council should play a central role in monitoring its use in Iraq.

Faced with opposition from France and Russia, Iraq's two major suppliers of atropine, the United States settled for a compromise that would allow Iraq to import atropine without council monitoring in doses typically used for medical purposes.

-- Colum Lynch

15 Cargo Ships Believed to Be

Available for Al Qaeda's Use

U.S. intelligence officials have identified approximately 15 cargo freighters around the world that they believe are controlled by al Qaeda or could be used by the terrorist network to ferry operatives, bombs, money or commodities over the high seas, government officials said.

U.S. spy agencies track some of the ships by satellites or surveillance planes and with the help of allied navies or informants in overseas ports. But they've occasionally lost track of the vessels, which are regularly given new fictitious names, repainted or reregistered using invented corporate owners.

As they scramble to keep tabs on the largely unregulated and secretive global maritime industry, U.S. officials worry about such scenarios as al Qaeda dispatching an explosives-packed speedboat to blow a hole in a luxury cruise ship or having terrorists posing as crewmen commandeer a freighter carrying dangerous chemicals and slam it into a harbor.

U.S. officials have started paying more attention than ever to what cargo is loaded onto ships entering U.S. waters, and to who serves on crews, as well as to stowaways and individuals who appear to be surveying U.S. ports.

-- John Mintz

New Emission Rules Sought

For Off-Road Diesel Vehicles

The Bush administration is preparing new restrictions on life-threatening emissions from off-road diesel-powered vehicles after decades of government neglect of this major pollution source. In a turnabout from previous battles over pollution policy, environmentalists have hailed the move, while some industry groups are vigorously challenging it.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Management and Budget are jointly drafting rules to reduce dangerous emissions from bulldozers, tractors, irrigation machinery and other diesel-powered equipment. Engine makers would have to install state-of-the-art devices for capturing and treating exhaust gases, and oil refineries would have to produce a low-sulfur diesel fuel for anti-pollution devices.

The proposed rules -- to be formally announced next spring -- would slash off-road diesel emissions by as much as 95 percent and bring them in line with newly adopted standards for heavy-duty diesel on-road trucks and buses. After power plants, off-road diesel engines are among the largest sources of pollutants that scientists have linked to premature deaths, lung cancer, asthma and other serious upper respiratory illnesses, the EPA says.

-- Eric Pianin

Nine States Challenge Bush

On Easing of Pollution Rules

Nine northeastern states from Maine to Maryland filed suit challenging the Bush administration's decision to relax national industrial pollution restrictions for the first time since enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1970.

The attorneys general of those states charged that the administration's rulemaking far exceeded its legislative authority under the Clean Air Act and would undermine state efforts to adopt stricter protections.

The legal challenge came as the Environmental Protection Agency formally issued final revisions to the New Source Review clean air enforcement rules, which would effectively preclude future government legal action in all but the most flagrant cases of pollution.

Under the new rules, refineries, manufacturers and some utilities will be presented with a series of new ground rules for upgrading or expanding their plants -- and likely increasing their emissions -- without the threat of lawsuits and without having to add costly anti-pollution equipment now required by law to control smog, acid rain and soot.

-- Eric Pianin