USA

The four-day Democratic National Convention opened in Boston Monday, with a conscious emphasis on avoiding bashing President Bush while highlighting White House hopeful John Kerry's proposals to create jobs, provide affordable health care, and rebuild foreign alliances. Among the scheduled first-day speakers: former President Clinton, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, and former Vice President Al Gore. Although Kerry expects to make his grand entrance Thursday night to accept the party's nomination, he arranged a surprise visit to Boston's Fenway Park Sunday evening between campaign stops in Ohio and Florida. The crowd greeted their hometown senator with a mix of cheers and boos - perhaps a reflection of some disgruntlement with convention-related disruptions - as he strode to the mound to throw out the first pitch.

President Bush may move quickly to restructure the US intelligence machinery without waiting for Congress, the Associated Press reported Monday, citing an unnamed administration official. Within days the president may enact a variation of the Sept. 11 commission's recommendation for a national intelligence director, the source said. Bush, who is spending the week at his Crawford, Texas, ranch, was expected to consult with his national security team via videoconference Monday.

A first-in-the nation trial to eliminate punch-card voting opened in Cleveland Monday, where the American Civil Liberties Union has brought suit against what it considers an outmoded, inferior system. Ohio is one of a handful of states that till use mostly punch-cards. Regardless of the suit's outcome, changes are unlikely before the Nov. 2 election.

The number of people who took the General Educational Development program, or GED, dropped 43.6 percent in the first full year of a new test series that puts greater emphasis on analysis and on less multiple-choice questions, the GED Testing Service said Monday. The dropoff followed a surge in test-takers before a 2002 overhaul of the exam.

Abdul Ghafoor Mahboob, a naturalized US citizen who lives in Culver City, Calif., arrived home Sunday after being detained a week in Egypt, where he says authorities beat him and questioned him without explanation. Mahboob, who is of Afghan descent, was on his way home after seven months studying Arabic. The Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations plans to file a complaint with the US State Department and the Egyptian Embassy.

More than 3,000 people turned out Sunday to distribute fliers and join a door-to-door search in Salt Lake City for Lori Hacking, a pregnant woman who vanished nearly a week ago while jogging. Police have called Mark Hacking, her husband, a "person of interest" in the case.

A meeting between accused Army deserter Charles Jenkins, who is accused of defecting to North Korea 40 years ago, and a US military counsel could occur in Japan as early as this week, Japanese news sources reported Monday. The Japanese government is pushing for US leniency with Jenkins so he can live in Japan with his Japanese wife, who was kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1978 and met and married Jenkins.

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