USA

The Federal Reserve was expected to cut interest rates for a seventh time this year as the Monitor went to press, extending its most aggressive credit-easing campaign in 20 years to spur the slowing economy. Analysts said a quarter-point cut was almost certain considering that Chairman Alan Greenspan and other Fed officials have recently said the US's year-long struggles are not yet over. Economic growth this spring, at 0.7 percent, was the slowest in eight years.

International weapons sales rose again last year, with the US by far the leading supplier to the developing world, the Congressional Research Service reported. Developing countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa agreed last year to buy $25.4 billion worth of weapons, representing two-thirds of all international arms purchases - the highest since 1994. The US accounted for almost half, or $12.6 billion, of all the new sales agreements to developing countries, followed by Russia and France. Leading recipients of weapons were Saudi Arabia, China, and Egypt.

The shuttle Discovery is expected to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida today, bringing home former International Space Station crew members Jim Voss, Susan Helms, and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Usachev after their five months in orbit. Discovery last week delivered fresh supplies and equipment to the station and ferried up Alpha's new US and Russian crew members, who'll live there until December. Above, new Alpha commander Frank Culbertson (r.) and cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin say farewell to old crew members aboard Discovery before closing the station's hatch.

The Pentagon OK'd the start of construction on a missile-defense test site in Alaska in coming weeks, The Washington Times reported. The newspaper quoted a Pentagon spokeswoman as saying a $9 million contract was awarded to an Alaskan bidder to clear trees and prepare for construction at the testing facility in Fort Greely, 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks. Pentagon lawyers say the site is legal under the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, which bans national defenses against long-range missiles.

Addressing Democratic concerns about staying within the federal budget, President Bush told a crowd in Independence, Mo., that it includes enough money for his tax cut and for bolstering the military, Social Security, and Medicare. His address came as the White House prepared to issue a report that is expected to show a budget surplus of $160 billion, down from the $284 billion projected in April.

New York civil-rights activist Al Sharpton said he's forming a committee to explore a bid for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. Sharpton said his campaign would focus on reforming the criminal-justice and election systems. Sharpton unsuccessfully ran for the Senate in 1994 and for New York City mayor in 1997.

Police launched a national manhunt for a Ukrainian immigrant who allegedly killed his pregnant wife and four other relatives in Sacramento, Calif., before fleeing with his toddler son. Nikolay Soltys has a history of domestic violence, police said.

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