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Supporters and opponents of the decision to invade Iraq both seized on the report by Charles Duelfer, the chief US weapons inspector, to bolster their positions. Duelfer's Iraq Survey Group, in findings presented to senators Wednesday, concluded that Iraq destroyed its undeclared chemical and biological stockpiles by 1992 under pressure of UN sanctions and never resumed production. Democrats said the report underscored their case that invading Iraq was a mistake. But Vice President Cheney expressed the opposite view. He said the report shows that despite no formal written plan for a revival of weapons of mass destruction, lieutenants to dictator Saddam Hussein understood that his goal was to restore WMD once sanctions were removed.

President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, his Democratic challenger, enter Friday night's town hall-style debate on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis virtually neck and neck in a number of polls. Bush, who was widely viewed as losing ground after last week's first debate, campaigned in Wisconsin Thursday, following the introduction of a new stump speech that accuses Kerry of adopting a "strategy of retreat" for the US in Iraq. Democrats called the sharp new critique of Kerry a "mulligan," a term used in golf to describe a replayed shot. The third and final debate is scheduled for next Wednesday in Tempe, Ariz.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R) of Texas was admonished for the second time in a week Wednesday for questionable conduct by the Ethics Committee. It cautioned him after determining that his participation in a 2003 golf outing created an appearance of favoritism. DeLay joined executives of an energy company for the outing after the company made contributions to Republican causes. The earlier rebuke resulted from an exchange of political favors involving a vote for passage of a prescription drug bill.

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Police announced Wednesday that they are holding a student at Marshfield (Mass.) High School without bail for allegedly plotting to murder targeted teachers and fellow students inside the school next April, possibly to coincide with the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado. Tobin Kerns was arrested last month.

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