USA

In a warm-up decision to the showdown over the broader new campaign finance-reform law, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government can ban contributions from advocacy groups. The justices rejected a constitutional challenge to the 32-year-old ban, which applies to groups with a point of view on issues such as gun rights and abortion. By a vote of 7 to 2, the court said the right to free speech does not trump Congress' goal of limiting the corrosive effects of corporate money in politics.

The high court also ruled that the government may force defendants to take antipsychotic medicine to make them competent to stand trial on serious criminal charges. However, the justices said forced medication is permissible only if the treatment is medically appropriate, is substantially unlikely to have side effects that may undermine the trial's fairness, and is necessary to further governmental trial-related interests.

President Bush was placing renewed emphasis on spurring the economy as he opened his drive for reelection with a series of fund-raising appearances. His first stop was in New Jersey, where he touted new tax breaks meant to spur business to invest in equipment while touring a maker and distributor of frozen Italian meals. Small Business Administration chief Hector Barretto was called back early from vacation to join Bush in New Jersey, a move that analysts said signals the urgency with which the administration views the economy.

In a related development, the Republican National Committee named Washington lobbyist Ed Gillespie as its chairman to succeed Marc Racicot, who will head the Bush-Cheney reelection effort. Gillespie is a top GOP strategist. As RNC chairman, Racicot, a former governor of Montana, saw his party regain control of the Senate and make gains in the House in the 2002 off-year elections.

A military hearing opened at Fort Knox, Ky., for a soldier accused of a deadly grenade attack on his fellow Americans in Kuwait. Sgt. Hasan Akbar of the 101st Airborne Division's 326th Engineer Battalion is charged with killing two officers and injuring 14 others in the March 23 attack. The purpose of the hearing, which is similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding, is to determine whether Akbar should be court-martialed.

A Republican-led campaign to recall California's Democratic governor drew closer to qualifying for the ballot. Supporters of the recall claim to have 700,000 of the 900,000 signatures they must obtain by Sept. 2. The most likely date for such an election would be March 2004. Gov. Gray Davis was elected in a landslide in 1998 and narrowly reelected last year, but his approval rating tumbled to 28 percent amid voter wrath over the state's energy and budget-deficit crises.

The San Antonio Spurs defeated the New Jersey Nets to claim their second National Basketball Association championship title in four years. The Spurs took Game 6 of the finals Sunday night, 88-77. Tim Duncan of the Spurs won Most Valuable Player honors for the second time in his career, with 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, and eight blocked shots.

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