USA

California's Oct. 7 recall election was on hold after a federal appeals court ruling Monday. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the punch-card ballots used in six counties - among them Los Angeles - could disenfranchise certain voters, and delayed the poll until the system is replaced. The ballots gained notoriety in Florida's disputed results from the 2000 presidential election. The court stayed its decision for a week to allow appeals, however, and backers of the initiative vowed an immediate filing.

US Sen. John Edwards (D) of North Carolina formally joined the 2004 presidential race, after a year of campaigning for his party's nomination. A wealthy former trial lawyer, Edwards announced his White House bid at a textile mill in Robbins, N.C., where he mopped floors as a youth. There are reports that retired Gen. Wesley Clark is close to announcing his candidacy as well.

Defying President Bush's threatened veto, the Senate voted to repeal media ownership rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission. Critics contend that the changes, which relax restrictions on ownership of newspapers and television and radio stations, will spur mergers and limit diversity and local news coverage. A federal appeals court in Philadelphia has temporarily blocked the new rules from going into effect.

More than 75,000 coastal residents of North Carolina were urged to evacuate, as the region braced for hurricane Isabel's anticipated arrival Thursday. Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) has declared a state of emergency, and the Navy and Air Force ordered ships and aircraft away the path of the storm. The weakening Isabel had top winds of 105 m.p.h. at midday Tuesday, but forecasters warned it could pick up strength again.

The Bush administration is stepping up efforts to halt suspected drug-trafficking by North Korea, White House and State Department officials said Monday. In an annual report to Congress identifying main transit points or producers of illegal narcotics, Bush expressed "growing concern" about North Korea's alleged links to trade in heroin and other drugs, although it wasn't among the 23 nations cited. Making the list were Burma (Myanmar), Haiti, Afghanistan, and Colombia.

After three lackluster seasons, the Women's United Soccer Association suspended operations Monday, citing a lack of corporate sponsorship. The decision came six days before the US women's team is due to defend its 1999 World Cup title.

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