USA

Hours after the final gavel of the Democratic National Convention in Boston and John Kerry's scheduled Thursday night acceptance speech, plans called for the party's new presidential nominee to begin a two-week, cross-country trip in which he'll visit every key state by train, bus, and boat. During the four-day convention, efforts were made by running mate John Edwards and a host of other speakers to paint Kerry, whom Republicans portray as a waffler, as a natural leader of vision and courage. In a 9-1/2-minute video titled "A Remarkable Promise," expected to help introduce the candidate to millions of viewers who haven't closely followed his year-long campaign, Kerry says, "My promise is to lead our country, to bring people together and take us to a better place."

The Bureau of Land Management anticipates issuing a record 6,000 well-drilling permits on public land by the end of the federal fiscal year in September, a BLM geologist said Wednesday. The rise in oil and natural gas prices has stimulated development, especially now that the White House advocates opening up more environmentally sensitive public lands.

For the first time since the introduction of a modern national tax system during World War II, reported taxpayer incomes declined two consecutive years (2001 and 2002), The New York Times said Thursday, citing Internal Revenue Service data. In the latter year, average incomes fell 5.7 percent after the stock market's decline and well-paying jobs were lost.

Research at the Los Alamos, N.M., nuclear weapons lab remains on hold, but some routine administrative tasks are now getting done, a spokesman said Wednesday. Classified work was shut down two weeks ago as the facility tries to deal with the disappearance of two computer disks, containing classified information.

Keep the water running, a federal judge in Portland, Ore., ruled Wednesday in issuing a preliminary injunction against the Army Corps of Engineers. The corps, which operates dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers, had proposed reducing the summer spill at four key Northwest dams in order to cut electric costs. The court said the long-term environmental benefits from aiding salmon migration took precedence.

In what was described as a demonstration of free speech a few miles from President Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch, about 1,000 people watched filmmaker Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," a documentary critical of the administration, in a parking lot Wednesday night. Some protested the showing at the Crawford Peace House, an interfaith gathering place.

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