GOP Senators Unveil

Intelligence Proposal

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, unveiled a radical proposal to remove most of the nation's major intelligence-gathering operations from the CIA and Pentagon and place them directly under the control of a new national intelligence director.

The plan, announced Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation" and endorsed by seven other committee Republicans, is more extensive than the reorganization proposed last month by the Sept. 11, 2001, commission and would result in the virtual dismantling of the CIA.

Under the plan, the CIA's three main directorates would be torn from the agency and turned into separate entities reporting to separate directors. The Pentagon would lose control of three of its largest operations as well, including the National Security Agency, which intercepts electronic signals worldwide.

President Bush, who responded coolly to the Roberts plan, on Friday signed a flurry of executive orders and directives bolstering the authority of the CIA director over the nation's intelligence programs and budgets.

The changes were characterized by the White House as an interim step toward the naming of a national intelligence director, which must be done by legislation, and signal that the administration is prepared to move closer than previously indicated to the far-reaching recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission.

-- Dan Eggen and Charles Babington

America's Poverty Rate

Rises for Third Year in a Row

The number of Americans living in poverty or lacking health insurance rose for the third straight year in 2003, the Census Bureau announced.

Overall, median household income remained stagnant at $43,318, while the national poverty rate rose from 12.1 percent in 2002 to 12.5 percent last year. Hardest hit were women, who for the first time since 1999 saw their earnings decline, and children. By the end of 2003, 12.9 million children lived in poverty.

The number of people without health insurance grew last year, to 45 million Americans -- or an increase from 15.2 percent to 15.6 percent. White adults, primarily in the South, represented most of the increase. The proportion of people receiving health insurance through an employer fell from 61.3 percent to 60.4 percent, the lowest level in a decade.

An additional 1.3 million Americans fell below the poverty line in 2003, as incomes dipped for the poorest 20 percent of the population. An additional 1.4 million became newly uninsured.

The national poverty rate declined from 1993 to 2000, when it reached a low of 11.3 percent. In the three years since, 4.3 million more people fell below the poverty line and median household income dropped by more than $1,500 in inflation-adjusted terms.

In 2003, the average poverty line for an individual was $9,393; for a family of four, it was $18,810. Despite the recent increase in poverty rates, they remained lower than the average for both the 1980s and 1990s.

-- Ceci Connolly and Griff Witte

Americans Show Increase

In High Blood Pressure

The number of Americans who have high blood pressure has increased dramatically in the past decade, with almost one-third of adults now suffering from the life-threatening condition, federal researchers reported.

A new analysis of data collected by the federal government found that the number of U.S. adults who have hypertension increased from about 50 million in the period from 1988 to 1994 to at least 65 million in the period from 1999 to 2000.

Although the study was not designed to examine the cause of the increase, the trend is probably being driven primarily by the rapidly rising number of elderly people and those who are overweight, experts said.

Whatever the cause, the trend is disturbing because high blood pressure can lead to a wide range of serious health problems -- including the nation's biggest killers, heart attacks and strokes.

High blood pressure is divided about equally between men and women, with about 35 million women and 30 million men suffering from the condition. Blacks have the highest rate -- 39.8 percent -- followed by Mexican Americans at 28.7 percent and non-Hispanic whites at 27.2 percent.

-- Rob Stein

Drinking Regular Soda

Linked to Weight Gain, Diabetes

Women who drink non-diet soda or fruit punch every day gain weight quickly and face a sharply elevated risk of getting diabetes, according to a major study.

The study of more than 50,000 U.S. nurses found that those who drank just one soda or fruit punch a day tended to gain much more weight than those who drank less than one a month, and had more than an 80 percent increased risk of developing the most common form of diabetes. The risk pertained to drinks sweetened with either sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.

Neither diet soda nor non-sweetened fruit juices appear to carry the same risks, the researchers found. Although the study involved only women, the researchers believed that the risks also hold for men.

Richard Adamson, vice president for scientific and technical affairs at the American Beverage Association, said the researchers failed to take into consideration variables that could account for the apparent risk. Women who drink a lot of soda may simply have unhealthy lifestyles, he said.

Walter C. Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health, who helped conduct the study, said its findings held true after researchers adjusted for a variety of factors, such as how much exercise the women were getting and how well they ate overall.

-- Rob Stein

Investigation Continues

Into Russian Jet Crashes

Two Russian passenger jets crashed almost simultaneously Tuesday, killing all 90 people aboard.

Investigators initially said that they found no evidence of terrorism. But Friday the Russian government reported that at least one of the two planes exploded in a terrorist bombing, as a radical Islamic group claimed responsibility for both crashes.

Investigators said they had discovered traces of a type of explosive previously used by Chechen bombers in the wreckage of a Tu-154 passenger jet that came apart in midair and plummeted to the countryside. Analysts were still studying fragments of the other plane, a Tu-134 airliner, which crashed about 500 miles away.

Under the scenario being pieced together by Russian security services, a Chechen woman boarded each plane at a Moscow airport and triggered explosives in flight that brought down the jets within three minutes of each other.

For the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings in the United States, terrorists apparently managed to infiltrate more than one plane at the same time, evading enhanced airport security.

-- Peter Baker and Susan B. Glasser