USA

Talks between US and Russian defense officials at the Pentagon yesterday were "very positive," a senior Pentagon official reportedly said. The talks on US missile-defense plans are intended to set the stage for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's meetings in Moscow next week with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. The Bush administration is committed to developing a defense against long-range missiles, but Russia has not yet agreed to scrap or amend the1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, which forbids such defenses. On its current schedule, the Pentagon would run into legal restrictions within months. At their summit meeting last month, President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to discuss the ABM treaty and missile-defense issues in the context of additional cuts in nuclear forces.

Microsoft Corp. asked the Supreme Court to overturn rulings that it violated antitrust laws, saying Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson should have been thrown off the case because of derogatory comments he made about the company. Microsoft simultaneously asked the federal appeals court that was due to send the case to a new judge today to delay that action until the Supreme Court decides whether it will take the appeal. Some experts questioned whether Microsoft's petition to the high court was designed to buy the company time until its new Windows operating system, set to be released this fall, gets to the market.

Ann Brown, head of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, resigned yesterday, ending a political battle over the post and making way for the Bush administration to nominate its own candidate. Her resignation comes a week after a Senate committee rejected Bush's first choice to lead the consumer watchdog agency, saying the candidate was more interested in protecting industry than consumers. It was Bush's first nomination defeat.

An undercover investigation of the largest known commercial child pornography business has led to the arrest of 100 people, federal officials said yesterday. The two-year investigation began with Landslide Productions Inc., a Fort Worth, Texas, company that authorities said was at the center of an international business that distributed lewd photos over the Internet. The website had 250,000 subscribers, some of whom investigators tracked down using electronic and credit card data. Thomas and Janice Reedy, who owned the company, were convicted last year on multiple charges of child-pornography possession and distribution.

The heat wave that has hung across the Plains and Northeast is expected to last at least until Friday. Temperatures in the 90s and low 100s, combined with stifling humidity, have caused thousands of blackouts and created miserable conditions for many residents. Boston declared its first heat alert of the summer, and electricity demand hit record levels across the Northeast. Above, Betsy Smith of Watertown, Wis., enjoys relief from a hose. (Story, page 1.)

The Houston mother accused of drowning her five children pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity yesterday to two counts of capital murder. Prosecutors said a court-ordered evaluation determined Andrea Yates was legally competent to stand trial. They have not yet said if they will seek the death penalty.

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