USA

President Bush was scheduled to meet Monday at his Crawford, Texas, ranch with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, one of Washington's closest allies in the Arab world. The visit was to attempt to lay the groundwork for Israel's withdrawal of settlements from the Gaza Strip, a matter Bush will take up in Washington Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Vice President Cheney, meanwhile, began a weeklong Asia trip in Japan, where he endorsed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's handling of a hostage crisis involving three Japanese civilians in Iraq. Koizumi's government has vowed to keep 530 ground troops in Iraq despite the demands of insurgent kidnappers. Cheney also has stops scheduled in South Korea and China, which is dealing with the seizure of seven Chinese nationals in Iraq.

The commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks is to reconvene Tuesday to hear testimony from Attorney John Ashcroft and his predecessor, Janet Reno, plus ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh. CIA Director George Tenet and FBI Director Robert Mueller will follow Wednesday, with questions expected to center on a newly declassified presidential briefing, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US" dated Aug. 6, 2001. On Sunday, Bush said he believed federal agents were on top of the terrorist threat at the time but looked forward to learning whether each agency had done all it was supposed to do.

With a visit to the University of New Hampshire Monday, John Kerry was to begin a week of college-hopping aimed at appealing to younger voters. His presidential campaign also was poised to release a study and "misery index" that draw a connection between spiraling college tuition, health insurance, and gasoline costs with the economic squeeze felt by middle-class families. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is to make stops later in the week at the University of Rhode Island, City College of New York, and the University of Pittsburgh.

Escalating gasoline prices hit a new high - a nationwide average of $1.82 a gallon for all grades over the two weeks ending last Friday, according to the latest Lundberg survey of 8,000 stations.

Left-hander Phil Mickelson sank an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole of the Masters Tournament Sunday to end an 0-for-42 streak in the sport's major championships. With two birdies over the final three holes, he outdueled Ernie Els, whose final round included two eagles. Els finished one stroke behind. Tiger Woods, in his worst Masters, was 11 shots back, tied for 22nd.

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