The Bush administration is doing all it can to prevent the "very real potential" of terrorist strikes on US soil, senior officials said while making the rounds of the Sunday talk shows. "Al Qaeda is still bent on injuring the United States," Attorney General Ashcroft told "Fox News Sunday," while Homeland Security Secretary Ridge told NBC-TV's "Meet the Press" that it will be "several years until we get the kind of robust system that we need" to protect Americans at home. Their comments came hours after an audiotape, purportedly by a senior Al Qaeda official, warned that the US would pay a high price if detainees at the US Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are harmed.

In a move to make US commercial jets less vulnerable to terrorists, the government Saturday started requiring visas for people from most countries when in transit through the US from one foreign airport to another. Two programs that allowed foreigners to stay in US airports without visas while awaiting flights to a foreign destination were suspended. The State Department said Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups had planned to use the programs to gain access to flights.

Burnishing his image ahead of a special recall vote, California Gov. Gray Davis (D) signed a $100 billion budget Saturday. The budget, approved by California's Assembly earlier in the week, relies heavily on borrowing to narrow the state's shortfall. It pares the $38 billion deficit to a still sizeable $8 billion gap for the next fiscal year.

The first openly gay clergyman to be elected bishop in the Episcopal church will soon learn whether he is allowed to serve. Delegates to the church's General Convention were scheduled to cast the first of two final votes necessary to approve the Rev. V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire after the Monitor went to press. The final vote is set for today. While Robinson is expected to be confirmed, many in the church worry about a global split in the denomination, as conservative Anglican bishops overseas have voiced strong opposition.

As many as 100 investigators have been assigned to probe a construction-site blaze in a scenic canyon near downtown San Diego, in what authorities Saturday called a potential case of "domestic terrorism." The three-alarm fire leveled the 200-unit condominium complex and caused at least $20 million in damage. A 12-foot banner found at the scene and e-mail suggested members of the Earth Liberation Front, a network of environmental groups that has claimed responsibility for other attacks, set the fire.

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