USA

President Bush takes to the podium Thursday night at the Republican National Convention in New York to accept the GOP's nomination for what delegates in Madison Square Garden hope will be "four more years" in the White House. Vice President Cheney was scheduled to give his acceptance speech Wednesday, following addresses the night before in which first lady Laura Bush and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke of the president as a man of strength and compassion. Outside the hall, police made almost 1,000 arrests on a day marked by nonviolent protests. Bush, meanwhile, used a speech before the American Legion convention in Nashville, Tenn., to clarify an earlier misconstrued remark and underscore his view that the US "will win" the counterterterrorism fight. At the same time, Democratic challenger John Kerry vowed a "smarter, more effective war on terror" if he's elected, by enlisting greater allied support. His campaign also announced a rollout of $45 million in new campaign ads to coincide with Thursday's conclusion of the GOP convention.

In a possible setback to the counterterrorism campaign, the Justice Department asked a federal court in Detroit to throw out the convictions of suspected terror cell members there. Based on an internal investigation of the case and the quality of the prosecution's evidence, the department said Tuesday it supports the defendants' request for a new trial and would no longer pursue terrorism charges against the three defendants. At most, they'd only face fraud charges in a new trial.

Hurricane Frances could strike somewhere between south Florida and South Carolina as early as Friday, meteorologists said. Its intensity was expected to fluctuate, possibly reaching Category 5 levels, with winds of 156 m.p.h. or higher, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. State officials worried about finding hotel rooms and shelters after hurricane Charley flattened more than 12,000 homes several weeks ago.

Mel Martinez, a close ally to President Bush and former Housing and Urban Development secretary, swept to victory in Tuesday's Florida primary to determine who will vie for a US Senate seat. In a field of seven candidates, Martinez, who is of Cuban descent, emerged as the Republican choice to square off against Betty Castor, a former state education commissioner and university president who won the Democratic nomination. The winner of the Nov. 2 election will succeed the retiring Bob Graham (D) and could help to determine which party controls the Senate.

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