A Massachusetts constitutional convention focusing on same-sex marriage opens Wednesday. Legislators will consider an amendment to the state Constitution that would ban marriages between homosexual partners. If passed, it would counter a state Supreme Court order that the legislature pass a law by mid-May allowing such couples to obtain marriage licenses.

With election-year questions swirling again over whether President Bush fulfilled his Vietnam-era military service, the White House said it would release pay records and other relevant documents from his Air National Guard days. Some of those documents also were shared during the 2000 presidential race when similar questions arose. John Kerry, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, among others, has attempted to make Bush's service record an issue.

The decision to award Halliburton Co. a controversial, billion-dollar contract in Iraq was not, as originally indicated, a joint government decision, but was made by the Army Corps of Engineers alone, one of its spokes-men said. Experts from other government agencies provided only technical advice in the matter, the spokesman said. Halliburton, once headed by Vice President Cheney, has been cited in a Pentagon report for overcharging for its work to restore Iraq's oil industry.

Only hours before his scheduled execution, convicted California murderer Kevin Cooper was spared after a federal court called for a stay until evidence in the 21-year-old case is tested for DNA. The 9th US District Court of Appeals issued the stay, and the Supreme Court declined to overrule it. Below, death-penalty protesters march outside the San Quentin penitentiary.

Three Muslims in Portland, Ore., accused of conspiring to wage war on the US, were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison each. They were arrested two years ago along with several others (previously tried) for their efforts to enter Afghanistan and join its Taliban militia. In a related development, Homeland Security Secretary Ridge agreed to investigate the handling of a recent sweep for illegal immigrants in Portland, in which Border Patrol agents searched transportation terminals and ethnic restaurants and markets.

Taxpayers could lose $2.5 billion in refunds for taxes paid in 2000 if they don't claim them by April 15, the Internal Revenue Service said. Half of the almost 2 million people entitled to refunds can claim $529 or more each.

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