USA

Determined voters across the nation waited in long lines to cast their ballots Tuesday in perhaps the most closely monitored, most disputed, and most important election in modern times. Election Day also brought a conclusion to the longest and costliest campaign on record. President Bush, who returned to the White House after a grueling, six-state campaign blitz Monday, said the "safety and prosperity of America" was at stake in the first such election since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. For his part, John Kerry, his Democratic opponent, said, "The hopes of our country are on the line." Elections officials and party leaders, backed by armies of lawyers, were closely watching for possible voter fraud and intimidation.

At the 11th hour, a federal appeals court overturned the ruling of two judges, clearing the way for the parties in Ohio to challenge voter eligibility at polling places. A three-judge panel of the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to grant stays allowing Republicans and Democrats one challenger each per precinct. Democrats had expresed concern that Republicans might unduly challenge minority voters.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist made no mention Monday of leaving the Supreme Court but announced that he's undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment following surgery last week. The disclosure makes it more likely the next president will be appointing at least one new justice, legal analysts said.

John Hinckley Jr., who shot President Reagan in 1981, should remain in custody, federal prosecutors said Monday in opposing his efforts to spend four days a week at the home of his parents in Williamsburg, Va. A federal judge is scheduled to consider the request at a hearing next week. Hinckley is confined to a mental hospital.

Iranian Shirin Ebadi, a Muslim human-rights activist who was awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, received permission from a federal court Monday to join other litigants suing the US government over publishing restrictions. Ebadi wants to publish her memoirs in the US, but is prevented from doing so by Treasury Department regulations against authors in countries, among them Iran, that are subject to US sanctions.

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