USA

President Bush pressed for speedy Senate action on his proposed Homeland Security Department in a speech at South Dakota's Mount Rushmore, wrapping up a two-day Midwest visit before returning to his ranch in Texas. The House has approved legislation, but Democrats who control the Senate oppose Bush's demand for flexibility on transfers and other labor rules for department employees.

Moderate to extreme drought affects 49 percent of the contiguous US states, the National Climatic Data Center reported. Areas of severe drought range from the Southwest to Montana and Nebraska and from Georgia to Virginia, the center said, with record or near-record low rainfalls this summer in 10 states. Heat and drought were expected to result in the lowest corn and soybean harvests in almost a decade, and one of the worst wildfire seasons. Above, a Christmas-tree farmer in North Andover, Mass., mows grass beside his failed crop.

There were signs of a once-again slowing economy in unemployment and industrial reports released by the government Thursday. Output from factories, mines, and utilities rose just 0.2 percent in July, the Federal Reserve reported, although auto production was at its fastest pace in two years. The Labor Department said new claims for jobless benefits increased last week by a seasonally adjusted 6,000 to 388,000.

An infant kidnapped from her mother's minivan was safe, and a female suspect was in custody after she was caught by police at a traffic stop Wednesday. The pair were found near Quanah, Texas, 125 miles north of Abilene, where the abduction occurred. It was the latest in a half-dozen kidnappings that have made headlines this year, although experts said such crimes do not appear to be on the rise.

Election officials in Washington imposed a record $277,700 fine on Mayor Anthony Williams (D) for violating campaign laws. Williams was barred from next month's Democratic primary after it emerged that campaign workers forged thousands of signatures on election petitions. He is seeking reelection as a write-in candidate.

Hazardous materials crews contained a chlorine leak from a tanker train near Crystal City, Mo., after about three hours Wednesday. Hundreds of people were evacuated from the area; 28 received medical treatment.

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