Democrats in Congress wasted no time in criticizing President Bush's stay-the-course-in-Iraq speech. In a nationally televised appearance at Fort Bragg, N.C., Tuesday night, Bush called Iraq "the latest battlefield" in the counterterrorism campaign and said the war there is a means of preventing another attack on US soil, adding that the sacrifice of American lives "is worth it." But House minority leader Nancy Pelosi accused him of exploiting "the sacred ground of 9/11, knowing there is no connection" between the terrorist attacks in the US four years ago and the war in Iraq. US Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts, who lost last year's presidential election to Bush, and colleague Joe Biden (D) of Delaware complained on early-Tuesday network TV programs that the US has too few forces in Iraq. Senate minority leader Harry Reid said Bush's speech "did not provide a way forward in Iraq."

Exceeding the expectations of Wall Street analysts, the economy grew at a 3.8 percent rate in the first quarter, the Commerce Department reported. It said the gross domestic product, which measures the combined value of goods and services produced in the US, was helped by strong spending on new-home construction and a jump in exports. Economists had predicted a 3.7 percent increase. The data come as Federal Reserve policymarkers prepare to announce Thursday whether, as expected, they'll raise interest rates for a ninth straight time.

Embattled former HealthSouth Corp. chief Richard Scrushy said through a spokesman that he'll fight to remain on its board after a jury in Birmingham, Ala., acquitted him Tuesday of all charges in a $2.7 billion accounting scandal. Scrushy is the largest individual shareholder in the nation's No. 1 operator of rehabilitation hospitals, but his codirectors have excluded him from a committee that has been overseeing the company since the scandal erupted. He still faces civil suits by the Securities and Exchange Commission and by fellow shareholders.

Same-sex marriage won a public endorsement from the leader of the 1.3 million-member United Church of Christ. An Emory University audience in Atlanta gave the Rev. John Thomas a standing ovation for saying, "I believe our local churches, as they are able, should move toward the development of marriage equality policies." The denomination is expected to vote on such a resolution this weekend at the annual meeting of its General Synod.

An Australian who played collegiately at the University of Utah, Andrew Bogut, was the No. 1 pick Tuesday night in the annual National Baskeball Association draft. Bogut, a 7-foot center and a star on his nation's 2004 Olympic team, was chosen by the Milwaukee Bucks. Four players from the national champion University of North Carolina Tar Heels also were drafted in the first round.

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