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A bipartisan panel chaired by former Presidents Carter and Ford submitted bold recommendations to President Bush on how to reform US election procedures to prevent the kind of controversies that marred last year's vote. The report suggests moving Election Day to the Veterans Day holiday to boost turnout. It also calls for uniform statewide standards for counting ballots, offering funds to states to upgrade voting equipment, and says new rules should allow voters to correct errors. It also suggests states restore voting rights to felons after they've served their sentences. (Story, page 1.)

Consumer confidence fell in July for the first time since April, underscoring worries about jobs and the future of the economy, the Conference Board reported. Its index fell to 116.5 in July, down from a revised 118.9 in June. The index is based on a monthly survey of 5,000 US households.

Meanwhile, a separate report released by the Commerce Department offered a more positive outlook, showing that consumers spent vigorously in June despite lagging confidence and rising layoffs. Such spending, which accounts for two-thirds of economic activity, rose by 0.4 percent in June, following a 0.3 percent rise in May. Analysts say steady consumer spending is a key reason the US hasn't slipped into recession.

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Fuel savings of as much as 40 percent can be achieved in cars and SUVs without reducing their size, weight, or performance, a National Academy of Sciences panel reported. The finding disputes longtime claims of the auto industry and is expected to boost efforts in Congress to raise miles-per-gallon standards for the first time in years. The report urged more efficient fuel-burning standards but cautioned against "quick fixes."

Prosecutors formally indicted a Texas mother who drowned her five young children in a bathtub in June on two counts of capital murder. Her attorneys plan to seek an insanity defense. Andrea Yates, who says she suffered from postpartum depression, reportedly called police and her husband after drowning her children to admit what she had done. Prosecutors have not said whether they'll seek the death penalty.

The wheel of an amusement park ride broke free from its axle and crashed to the ground at the Adventure Amusement Park in Muskegon, Mich. injuring 24 people and leaving some riders stranded for hours before rescuers could remove them. The ride spins horizontally and then turns vertically until it resembles a Ferris wheel. Above, a man offers a rider a drink while she awaits rescue.

Elderly people were abused in almost one-third of the US's nursing homes in the past two years, a report by congressional investigators said. Some 5,283 nursing homes out of the national total of 17,000 were cited for physical or verbal abuse violations between January 1999 and January of this year. Roughly 1.5 million senior citizens live in such facilities.

Several thousand people gathered in New York's Harlem neighborhood to welcome ex-President Clinton to his new office. In a campaign-style event that attracted heavy news coverage, Clinton pledged to be "a good neighbor." Some protesters, however, called his office a symbol of gentrification. (Story, page 2.)

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