USA

A bill to create a Department of Homeland Security was taken up by the Senate Tuesday, but current security chief Tom Ridge told NBC's "Today" show that he'd recommend that President Bush veto it in its present form. Majority Democrats in the Senate disagree with Bush's demands for greater flexibility in hiring and reassigning the 170,000 federal workers who would be employed by the Cabinet-level agency. Congress also is working to approve a federal budget before lawmakers return home early next month to campaign for elections in November.

"There is no specific, credible information" to indicate a new terrorist attack will be carried out against the US or its interests on the Sept. 11 anniversary, Ridge said in an ABC interview. He added that while the country has become "considerably safer" in the past year, more work remains to be done to improve security. (Related story, page 1.)

Manufacturing activity in the US grew slightly in August, the seventh straight monthly increase, an industry group reported. The Institute for Supply Management of Tempe, Ariz., said its index of factory business activity held steady at 50.5 last month. A reading above 50 indicates growth. However, many analysts had expected a rise to 51.6.

After a tornado leveled much of downtown, Ladysmith, Wis., was declared a disaster area by Gov. Scott McCallum (R), who planned to visit the town as the Monitor went to press. Forty people were hurt by the twister, which destroyed or damaged some 60 homes, businesses, and churches, like the one above, and tore the roof off the fire department. It was part of a larger storm that generated at least one other tornado, in a rural area near Wausau.

The Navy was to begin 23 days of its controversial exercises on Vieques island off Puerto Rico – the first since April. Activists opposed to the island's use as a bombing range, who have staged previous invasions of the site, said they had no plans for disruptive protests because of tougher penalties imposed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Pop star Lance Bass may not be able to make his high-profile visit to the International Space Station next month after all. The 'N Sync singer was asked to leave Russia's Star City cosmonaut training facility after failing to pay the $20 million fee for the trip. If the voyage eventually goes ahead, he'd be the youngest person in space and the third tourist to visit the station via a Russian launch.

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