USA

"Perceptions" of a lack of progress in Iraq don't reflect the "reality" there, President Bush said, addressing criticism of his postwar strategy. Speaking at an Air National Guard base in Portsmouth, N.H., Bush said the perpetrators of ongoing violence "believe that America will run from a challenge; they're mistaken." The appearance, which coincided with attacks in Iraq that killed at least 11 people Thursday, was among several in which the president and other senior administration officials were stressing improvements in rebuilding Iraq as well as in the US economy, following a steady drop in public opinion polls.

At his first news conference as governor-elect of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) named former US Rep. David Drier (R) to head his transition team Wednesday, and said he'd ask Bush for "a lot of favors," an apparent reference to federal funding. The actor-turned-politician also renewed campaign pledges to conduct an audit of state spending for potential cuts, not to raise taxes, and to repeal widely unpopular tripled car-registration fees.

Angered by the discovery of an electronic listening device in the office of Philadelphia Mayor John Street (D), prominent Democrats and Republicans were demanding the FBI explain the apparent bugging. Federal law-enforcement officials have confirmed the agency planted the devices as part of an ongoing investigation, but declined to give specifics. Street said he'd received word he isn't the target. The incident comes as Street is locked in a bitter race for reelection against Republican businessman Sam Katz, with the vote less than four weeks away.

Two men from Linden, Texas, are in custody for an assault the FBI is investigating as a possible hate crime, and two others are being sought. Authorities said Billy Ray Johnson, who is black and mentally handicapped, was beaten and left in a ditch Sept. 28, after drinking alcohol in a pasture with a group of white men. Violent crime is rare in the east Texas town, a quarter of whose residents are black, and many expressed shock at the attack.

A procession featuring a town crier and other historic reenactments carried the Liberty Bell 1,000 feet to its new home in Philadelphia. The symbol of American democracy hung at the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall) from 1753 until 1976, when it was moved to Liberty Bell Pavilion for bicentennial celebrations. The new Liberty Bell Center is part of a $314 million redevelopment of the city center.

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