USA

Final preparations were under way across the US for Independence Day celebrations, amid unprecedented security due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The FBI is assisting local law enforcement in major cities.

President Bush promoted his welfare-reform proposals in Milwaukee, touring a church-run facility run that helps welfare recipients to find jobs. Congress must renew 1996 welfare legislation later this year, and, among other changes, Bush would like to make such faith-based programs eligible for government aid. The trip was part of a series designed to refocus attention on Bush's domestic policy agenda of "compassionate conservatism."

A joint team of US and Afghan investigators heads today to the scene of a deadly incident in Uruzgan province, whose details are in dispute. Afghans claim US warplanes bombed a wedding – where weapons traditionally are fired into the air – killing 40 people and wounding dozens more. The US military maintains Monday's raid by a B-52 bomber and an AC-130 gunship went after a legitimate target. The Kabul government has demanded that the US take "all necessary measures" to avoid harming civilians in the future.

A federal court in New York ruled the federal death penalty is unconstitutional. US District Judge Jed Rakoff found that too many of those executed for crimes were later exonerated. The Bush administration was expected to appeal Monday's decision, which does not impinge on state death-penalty rules. Capital punishment is legal in 38 states.

Two America West pilots were charged with trying to fly while legally intoxicated, after security screeners at Miami International Airport reported they smelled of alcohol. Their Phoenix-bound flight was ordered back to the terminal, where sobriety tests determined both men had blood-alcohol levels above Florida's legal limit. The Federal Aviation Administration and America West were investigating the incident.

Millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett became the first person to fly a balloon solo, nonstop around the world. On his sixth attempt, the Chicago tycoon crossed east of the 117 degrees longitude mark in Australia, completing a two-week and more than 19,000-mile trip.

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