USA

More than 3,000 National Guard troops were deployed to aid relief efforts in Florida as hurricane Jeanne, a weakening tropical storm, sloshed its way north toward Georgia after ravaging coastal and central parts of the state. Despite diminished winds, forecasters said Jeanne threatened to spawn tornadoes and dump up to eight inches of rain in northern Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Jeanne was blamed for at least six deaths and an estimated $4 billion to $8 billion in insured losses.

President Bush, who'll use Tuesday to practice for Thursday's prime-time debate against Democratic challenger John Kerry, campaigned in Ohio, his 26th visit to the state during his White House tenure. A 27th trip is scheduled for this weekend. Both candidates consider Ohio, a traditional battleground state, pivotal in the Nov. 2 election. On Sunday, Kerry rapped Bush for expressing no regret over his Iraq victory speech during a taped interview, set to air on Fox News's "The O'Reilly Factor." Bush was asked whether, given what he knows now, would he still have said the US and its alllies had "prevailed," as he did more than a year ago aboard an aircraft carrier off San Diego? He responded, "Absolutely."

Hoping to discourage potential acts of terrorism by Al Qaeda or others, the federal government has begun an unusually open offensive as the Nov. 2 election approaches, The Washington Post reported. Although there is no specific intelligence about any planned attacks, officials announced that counterterrorist measures would include heavy FBI surveillance, increased checks of terrorism watch lists by local police, and heightened security at polling places.

The Army is exploring the possibility of shortening combat tours for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan from 12 months to between six and nine months, according to a report in The New York Times. Moving to a shorter rotational basis, some personnel officers believe, is needed to avoid a possible erosion in soldier recruiting and retention, the Times said.

The US Geological Survey warned Sunday that a series of strengthening earthquakes at Mount St. Helens, which erupted in Washington State 24 years ago, could lead to another volcanic eruption. Ten temblors, each with a magnitude of 2.0 to 2.8, were recorded last weekend. The 1980 eruption killed 57 people and devastated hundreds of square miles.

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