USA

President Bush sharpened his election-year rhetoric at a Republican fundraiser in Washington Monday night, casting the November vote as a choice between big and small government, a theme he used successfully against Al Gore in 2000. His remarks also served to rebut recent Democratic criticisms of his administration and put himself on the offensive.

Hoping to end what he calls "growing confusion" about the status of same-sex unions, Bush said he'll back a constitutional amendment banning such marriages, thousands of which San Francisco officials have performed over the past two weeks. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said he will ask the state Supreme Court Friday to rule on whether the marriages violate a state law that recognizes only unions between one man and one woman.

The first name and phone number of one of the pilots of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was in the hands of the CIA 2-1/2 years before he crashed a United Airlines jet into the south tower of New York's World Trade Center, according to a report in The New York Times. It said German intelligence officials tipped off the CIA about Marwan al-Shehhi in 1999 but did not hear back from their American counterparts until after the Sept. 11 attacks. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a US official said the information provided was fragmentary and "doesn't take you anywhere without the benefit of hindsight."

The Comanche helicopter development program that began in 1983 and has cost $6.9 billion is ending, the Pentagon announced. The decision will allow the Army to free up roughly $30 billion in additional projected costs to pay for other projects, such as unmanned surveillance aircraft. Only two prototypes of the Commanche were built, and neither was put into service.

Countries in sub-Sahara Africa will be a major target of Bush's five-year, $15 billion initiative to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the White House said Monday. Critics expressed concern about possible funding delays for the emergency services that the president called the boldest such undertaking by a single country.

Almost 100 commercial ships, among them cruise liners docked in New Orleans, were stymied for a third day Monday by closure of the Mississippi River's main channel, where a supply ship sank last weekend following a collision. The remains of three of five missing crew members were found Monday night.

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