At least four American soldiers were killed by an explosion in Afghanistan yesterday, defense officials in Washington said. Several more were injured and others were missing. The explosion, which occurred near Kandahar, did not appear to be hostile fire, a Pentagon spokesman said, but was related to ordnance. The soldiers were killed while disposing of "large-caliber rockets."

Nearly 17,000 runners, including 600 police officers, gathered for the 106th Boston Marathon yesterday (above). Half a million spectators were expected, and the city lined up unprecedented security. About 1,500 local police were on hand to guard the course, along with 415 National Guard Troops and another 1,500 officers from other law enforcement agencies. Race results were not available at press time.

For his 16th fundraiser of the year, President Bush headed to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, yesterday, to help collect campaign dollars for Rep. Greg Ganske, who is running for the GOP nomination to challenge Sen. Tom Harkin (D) in November. Vice President Cheney was also on the fundraising trail, traveling to Collinsville, Ill., to give support to Rep. John Shimkus, one of a handful of incumbent House Republicans who face incumbent Democrats because of redistricting.

A panel formed to revamp Illinois's death penalty has recommended dozens of changes, including reducing the list of circumstances that warrant execution from 20 to five. The panel, formed by Gov. George Ryan after he imposed a moratorium on executions two years ago, stopped short of recommending an end to capital punishment, but a narrow majority would favor such an action, the 14-member panel wrote in their summary. The report contains 85 recommendations, ranging from videotaping interrogations in capital cases to establishing a statewide commission to determine if prosecutors can seek the death penalty.

The Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving one of the nation's oldest school busing programs, turning away an appeal from black parents in Charlotte, N.C., without comment. A lower court order had ended the program. In other actions, the court agreed to settle a trademark fight involving the lingerie catalog Victoria's Secret, and also declined to hear an appeal from a Texas writer jailed for refusing to turn over interview notes about a murder, refused to consider the legality of voting by mail in Oregon, and turned away a case over whether states can keep controversial messages off personalized license plates.

The New York Sun hits newsstands today as the city's fourth daily paper. The broadsheet will be linked in spirit to its namesake, which disappeared in 1950. Like the old Sun, it will focus on city coverage and its logo features aspects of the original. Seth Lipsky, the paper's editor and president, said it won't read like a tabloid or The New York Times, and his editorial page will espouse a "center-right, free-market, limited-government, low taxes" approach.

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