Firefighters took advantage of calm weather and dissipating Santa Ana winds to make significant progress Saturday in battling a 62-square-mile blaze 90 miles east of Los Angeles. Officials said the fire, which they suspect arsonists started last Thursday, was about 40 percent contained. A $500,000 reward has been offered to anyone with information leading to arrests in the case, which has seen four firefighters killed and a fifth critically injured.

Congress is scheduled to vote Monday on an advisory panel report that calls on the US to take tough action against China's economic practices. The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission wants the Bush administration to press China before the World Trade Organization for undervaluing Chinese currency and for lax intellectual property protection. The latter leads to product pirating, while the currency situation imbalances trade between the two countries, costing many Americans their jobs.

The federal government is probing the link between California-based Sequoia Voting Systems, a voting-machine subsidiary of Smartmatic Corp., and the leftist government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, according to a weekend report in The New York Times. Company officials and Venezuelan authorities deny that Chávez, a longtime foe of the Bush administration, has any role in Smartmatic.

Authorities in Madison, Wis., called Saturday night's annual Halloween street party, which has veered out of control in recent years, a success, with no reported violence and no need for police in riot gear. An estimated 35,000 costume-wearing revelers turned out, compared with 80,000 last year, and the number of arrests (255) was roughly half the 566 made in 2005. Officials attributed the absence of mayhem to changes in the event.

After appearing at roughly 90 political fund-raisers during the 2005-06 election season, President Bush made his first free campaign appearance Saturday, speaking to an energized crowd of Republicans in a high school gymnasium in Sellersburg, Ind. In hopes of helping the GOP retain its majority in the House and Senate, Bush will attend rallies in Texas, Montana, Nevada, and Georgia before the weekend.

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