Prolonged violence in Iraq and extended troop deployment may cause a $4 billion shortfall in funding for the war, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers said in congressional hearings that concluded Thursday. Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said extending the stay of 20,000 US troops alone will cost $700,000 over three months. Bush administration officials said they plan to press for postelection bills for $50 billion in additional funds for Iraq and reconstruction and peacekeeping efforts in Afghanistan. The war's monthly price tag is $4.7 billion.

President Bush spent Earth Day in Maine, touting his environment record and calling for additional protection of 3 million acres of wetlands. He was to talk about the nation's "environmental progress" in which "air is cleaner, our water is cleaner, and our land is better protected" since the first Earth Day more than 30 years ago. Bush recently drew criticism from the National Council of Churches for "chipping away" at the Clean Air Act and giving industry too much leeway on adapting pollution controls, and his Democratic rival, John Kerry, accused him of "putting the brakes on environmental progress."

Kerry's campaign released records showing he met with 200 registered lobbyists between 1989 and 2003. Although he has complained frequently of the amount of time Bush spends with business leaders, his own records show he has met with representatives of such leading companies as Microsoft, Intel, and IBM, as well as labor unions.

Two highly radioactive fuel rods were reported missing from a Vermont nuclear plant. Officials sought to ease public concerns that the rods are a security threat "at this point" and suggested they may have been mixed with nuclear waste shipped to South Carolina or Washington State. Exposure to the rods without proper protection could be deadly. And if the material falls into "the wrong hands," it could be end up in "dirty" bombs, authorities said.

As many as five University of Miami players were expected to be selected in Friday's first round of the annual NFL draft. Such success has become a custom for the school, which has had at least one first-round pick in each of the past nine drafts. Meanwhile, the US Supreme Court held the fate of Ohio State's Maurice Clarett in its hands. Due to personal problems and a suspension by the school, he has played only one year of college football but is seeking an override of the NFL rule that athletes must be out of high school for three years before joining the league.

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