USA

A campaign remark by Vice President Cheney, suggesting that electing Democrat John Kerry as president might leave the US vulnerable to another 9/11-style attack, was being roundly criticized Wednesday. John Edwards, Kerry's running mate, angrily called it a "scare tactic that crossed the line." Cheney (above), speaking to supporters in Des Moines, Iowa, said: "It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today ... we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again" in a "devastating" way. He said the nation risked falling into a reactive, not a preemptive, "pre-9/11 mind-set" with Kerry in the White House. Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, Kerry aggressively challenged Bush's decisions in the Iraq war, where the number of US military deaths passed 1,000 Tuesday.

Fresh from summer recess, the House and Senate quickly approved a bill to provide $2 billion for disaster relief to Florida counties reeling from the effects of hurricanes Charley and Frances in the last 30 days. The White House said President Bush was expected to sign the bill before touring the storm-battered state Wednesday. Meanwhile, thousands of residents who evacuated coastal areas before Frances hit over the weekend began returning despite pleas by state officials to stay put. The result was jammed highways, which delayed cleanup efforts and caused tempers to flare as homeowners and emergency crews began removing debris and downed trees.

With a delegation of federal election officials observing, Nevada voters became the first in the nation to cast ballots in a statewide election using computers that print paper records of their ballots. As the polls closed, officials said the primary was generally free of software and hardware problems that have cast doubt upon electronic voting systems in other states. California, Illinois, and Washington recently passed laws requiring a paper trail for electronic ballots, and at least 20 other states are considering similar legislation.

NASA's Genesis space capsule, carrying atoms collected from solar wind, was en route to a rendezvous with helicopters assigned to snatch it in midair over Utah. Genesis, launched in 2001, marks the first time NASA has gathered objects from farther than the moon. The atoms are expected to reveal clues about the origin and evolution of the solar system.

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