Bush Raises Threshold

For Firing Aides in Leak Probe

President Bush said Tuesday that he will fire anyone in the administration found to have committed a crime in the leaking of a CIA operative's name, creating a higher threshold than he did one year ago for holding aides accountable in the unmasking of Valerie Plame.

After originally saying that anyone involved in leaking the name of the covert CIA operative would be fired, Bush told reporters: "If somebody committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."

This is a small, but potentially very significant, distinction, because details that have emerged from the leak investigation over the past week show that Karl Rove, Bush's top political aide, and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, discussed Plame with reporters before her name was revealed to the public. It is unclear whether either man committed a crime, according to lawyers familiar with the case.

Democrats pounced on Bush's comments to accuse him of trying to shield White House aides from future punishment.

Some said that even if administration aides did not violate the law, they should lose their security clearances -- if not their jobs -- for trafficking in information about a CIA operative.

Prosecutors are nearing the end of an inquiry into whether Rove, Libby or any other administration official broke the law. This is a difficult crime to prove, because it must be shown that the person who leaked her name knew not only that Plame had covert status but also that the government was trying to conceal it.

Rove has admitted discussing Plame with two reporters but told the grand jury he was not aware at that time that she was covert, a lawyer familiar with his testimony said. Less is known about Libby's role, although he has cleared several reporters to discuss with prosecutors his conversations with them.

-- Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen

China Says It Will Boost

Value of Its Currency

China took an important step Thursday toward a market economy, announcing it would increase the value of its currency, the yuan, and abandon its decade-old fixed exchange rate to the U.S. dollar in favor of a link to a basket of world currencies.

The announcement on state television delivered China's first concrete move toward allowing the yuan -- also known as the renminbi -- to eventually float freely at the whim of global traders.

The move eased tensions between China and the United States on a key source of trade friction. The White House, pressured by manufacturers and vocal members of Congress, has lobbied China to raise the value of its currency, arguing that a low-priced yuan has unfairly kept Chinese goods artificially cheap.

The Chinese move was welcomed heartily by the Bush administration.

-- Peter S. Goodman

Westmoreland Dies; General

Commanded Troops in Vietnam

William C. Westmoreland, 91, the controversial four-star general who confidently predicted victory, leading the American military buildup in Vietnam until the 1968 Tet Offensive shattered public confidence, died July 18 at a retirement home in Charleston, S.C., his son said. The cause of death was not immediately available.

Westmoreland commanded U.S. troops in South Vietnam as the U.S. military presence grew from about 20,000 advisers in early 1964 to 500,000 troops in 1968. Facing a confounding enemy, a fearful public turning rapidly hostile and an undependable ally in the South Vietnamese government, Westmoreland came to personify the military establishment against which a generation rebelled.

He was called a war criminal, was burned in effigy on campuses, and was said by historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. to be possibly "our most disastrous general since Custer."

The American military never lost the Vietnam War, Westmoreland insisted.

-- Patricia Sullivan

Hewlett-Packard Plans

To Cut 14,500 Jobs

Hewlett-Packard Co., the computer equipment giant that has been in the midst of executive upheaval and strategic soul-searching for the past year, said Tuesday that it plans to cut about 14,500 jobs, or a tenth of its workforce.

The layoffs are part of the Silicon Valley company's effort to control costs as it tries to compete against aggressive rivals such as Dell Inc.

HP did not provide details about the impact the restructuring will have on its Washington area workforce, but the changes mean a shake-up is coming for the hundreds of HP employees focused on selling to the federal government.

HP said the changes, which include discontinuing its company retirement plan in favor of a 401(k) program, will save about $1.9 billion annually starting in 2007. Analysts had expected the cuts for several months, since Mark V. Hurd signed on as chief executive in April, replacing storied executive Carly Fiorina, who was ousted in February.

Analysts say the moves signal the continuation of Hurd's plan to revamp the business and reverse several of the strategies Fiorina implemented during her six years as HP's chief executive, a tenure marked by a tumultuous $25 billion merger with Compaq Computer Corp. in 2002.

The layoffs are expected to be spread out over the next 18 months. The firm said it will incur a $1.1 billion charge during the period.

-- Ellen McCarthy

N.Y. Woman Is Named

Maestro of Baltimore Orchestra

Marin Alsop was confirmed as the 12th music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, despite widespread opposition from the orchestra's musicians.

The decision will make her the first female conductor to assume the artistic leadership of a full-time, full-size, world-quality orchestra.

Philip D. English, chairman of the BSO board, said that Alsop's "artistic mastery, recording success and highly regarded reputation worldwide will shape an exciting future for the BSO."

In a statement read by English, the BSO said that "an overwhelming majority" of the board voted in favor of Alsop, 48, a New Yorker.

Alsop will replace Music Director Yuri Temirkanov, who has said he will step down at the end of the 2005-06 season.

-- Tim Page

28,000 Pacemakers May Need

Replacement, Maker Says

As many as 28,000 people with implanted heart pacemakers made by Guidant Corp. may need to have them replaced because of recently discovered defects, the company said.

The announcement that thousands of people could face unexpected surgery to replace their pacemakers came on the same day that the Institute of Medicine issued a stinging report that criticized the Food and Drug Administration's monitoring of medical device safety as inadequate and in need of significant congressional reform.

The Guidant alert for its pacemakers underscored the message of the study by the institute, a branch of the National Academies. The problems reported Monday were in pacemakers implanted between 1997 and 2000, and the report came one month after a safety warning involving another Guidant product -- about 109,000 implanted defibrillators. But unlike that recall, the pacemaker announcement warned doctors that the devices might need to be replaced.

-- Marc Kaufman

Longtime Saudi Envoy

To U.S. Resigns

Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the dean of Washington's diplomatic corps and confidant of presidents over the past 22 years, has resigned and will be replaced by the former head of Saudi Arabia's intelligence service.

Bandar, a former air force pilot who came to the job with limited diplomatic experience, ended up as a central player in Washington politics. Famed for his cigars and good-humored confidence, he brokered deals that heavily influenced U.S. policies and cemented American ties to the world's largest oil producer. A Saudi statement cited unspecified personal reasons for the move.

His departure comes at a sensitive time because of fears of instability in a country that has become a pillar of U.S. policy and a vital energy source.

Saudi Arabia also faces political challenges, with King Fahd incapacitated by a stroke. Fahd was hospitalized recently amid signs that the royal family is preparing for a transition to Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto ruler. Bandar's father, the defense minister, is the leading candidate to be crown prince, U.S. officials say.

-- Robin Wright