USA

In the last of three presidential debates, held Wednesday at Arizona State University in Tempe, the candidates covered a wide range of domestic issues, from same-sex marriage to Social Security to influenza vaccines, but returned frequently to their favorite campaign themes. President Bush sought to portray Sen. John Kerry as a "far left-bank" liberal out of touch with the mainstream. Kerry accused the president of fiscal irresponsibility by supporting tax breaks for the rich at the expense of the struggling middle class.

No other members of Congress appeared ready to follow the lead of Sen. Mark Dayton (D) of Minnesota, who announced the closure of his Capitol Hill office until after the Nov. 2 election rather than subject his staff to a possible terrorist attack. Dayton, who like most lawmakers, has returned to his home state during the congressional recess, explained his decision Wednesday on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, saying: "I don't know what the future holds. But I do know the safety and lives of my staff are my responsibility. And I'm not going to leave them there exposed to risks that I'm not there to take myself." His caution, he says, stemmed from a secret intelligence report shared with the Senate two weeks ago.

The price of flu vaccine is skyrocketing as the result of a major national shortage, a new study found, raising concerns about price-gouging. The price of the vaccine has gone up more than four times its original market value, according to statistics compiled by the American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists. The nationwide scramble for the vaccine was triggered when a major supplier said it would not be able to provide the estimated 48 million shots expected this year. Attorneys general in Kansas and Florida already are suing a Florida company for seeking "unconscionable profits."

The Supreme Court debated on Wednesday whether teenaged killers should be subject to the death penalty. The court has outlawed executions for those 15 and under when they committed their crimes. Still, 19 states allow the death penalty for older teens.

The state of Oregon said Wednesday it would open an investigation into improper voter registration canvassing alleged both in a TV report and in complaints by citizens. According to various accounts, canvassers working for an out-of-state consulting firm said they were instructed to pressure people into registering as Republicans.

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