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President Bush and Vice President Cheney made themselves available for an historic interview Thursday with all 10 members of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. On Tuesday the White House announced there would be no recording or transcription of the interview, although two note-takers would record it. Bush was not to be under oath. Legal scholars said the lack of an official transcript would make it difficult to use the president's words as evidence in any subsequent lawsuit against the government.

More than 200 members of Congress signed an open letter urging Bush to ease restrictions for public funding of embryonic stem-cell research. The signers, spanning ideologies of party, ideology, and geography, called for expanding federal support for research that advocates claim could save and enhance the lives of millions of Americans.

Four-term Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter (R) narrowly survived a primary challenge from a more conservative rival Tuesday in what he called a "family disagreement." His 51 percent to 49 percent win over US Rep. Pat Toomey also is considered a victory for Bush, who endorsed him and is counting on Specter supporters to help him carry a state he narrowly lost to Democrat Al Gore in 2000. Specter will be opposed by US Rep. Joseph Hoeffel (D) in the November election.

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The Supreme Court was taking its closest look yet at civil rights in a time of terrorism and war. The justices heard arguments Wednesday questioning the government's authority to hold US citizens Yaser Esam Hamdi and former Chicago gang member Jose Padilla in custody while denying them access to lawyers and courts.The Bush administration calls the two "enemy combatants" who warrant open-ended military detention.

Lexington, Ky., in the heart of tobacco country, banned smoking in enclosed public spaces, the first time the practice has been made illegal in a state where 30 percent of adults and 37 percent of high schoolers say they light up regularly. The law reflects changing attitudes and a workforce slowly leaving tobacco farms to work in industries such as high-tech, bioengineering, and finance.

In a start to changes designed to combat "mad cow" disease, the Agriculture Department said Tuesday it intends to issue identification numbers to ranches, feedlots, and packing plants later this year. The IDs will be a first step toward nationwide animal identification, which farming groups embraced last year after the first US case of the disease.

About 41 percent of Tennessee children are being raised in poverty, according to a new report by state auditors. The document says the state's tax structure places a disproportionate burden on the working poor, and recommends a tax rebate for those at poverty level. Tennessee is among the states that tax food purchases.

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