USA

An unmanned Air Force reconnaissance aircraft was apparently shot down by Iraqi air defenses while on a mission near the heavily defended southern city of Basra, Pentagon officials said. But they said all manned US aircraft used for such missions were accounted for. Iraq has occasionally claimed it hit a US or British plane, but Monday's downing was the first to be confirmed. Afterward, US planes attacked an air-defense site in northern Iraq, reportedly killing one person and wounding three others. Iraq has been stepping up efforts to shoot at US and British aircraft patrolling "no-fly" zones.

Despite pleas from black civil-rights activists, Secretary of State Powell likely will not attend a UN conference on racism because of Arab-backed proposals accusing Israel of such practices against Palestinians, a White House official said. The conference starts Friday in Durban, South Africa. It was not clear whether the administration would be represented at a lower level, although President Bush has said he won't send anyone if delegates plan to "pick on Israel." Israel calls its conflict with Palestinians a political rather than racial dispute.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) identified 64 human embryonic stem-cell lines at laboratories worldwide that meet Bush's criteria for federally funded research. NIH said the self-replicating stem-cell colonies are derived from "genetically diverse" embryos. Stem cells are precursors to all human cell types, and scientists hope to create a range of cells used to treat diseases. Producing them requires the death of embryos. In a controversial move earlier this month, Bush limited funding for research only on embryos that have already been destroyed.

The number of adults in prison, on parole, or on probation reached a record 6.47 million last year - or 1 in 32 US adults, the Justice Department reported. Jails and prisons held 30 percent of adults in the corrections system, while people on probation accounted for 59 percent of the total. Over 20 years, the number of adults in the system has tripled, accounting for 3.1 percent of the adult population, compared with 1 percent in 1980. But the report also showed the increase from 1999 to 2000, in percentage terms, was half the average annual rate since 1990.

IBM said its researchers had created and used the world's first computer circuit within a single molecule. The chip was formed from a "carbon nano-tube," a cylindrical molecule of carbon atoms, and was 100,000 times thinner than a human hair. The advance could lead to more powerful but efficient computers, scientist said. Carbon nanotubes are a top candidate to replace silicon as it becomes harder to make current chip features smaller.

Sales of previously owned homes slid in July to their lowest point in seven months as prospective buyers held off because of the slowing economy. The National Association of Realtors reported that existing-home sales fell 3 percent from June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million. Even with the drop, sales are at healthy levels because of low mortgage rates, analysts said.

The gasoline additive MTBE has leaked into 48 wells in California's public-water systems that serve hundreds of thousands of residents, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The newspaper analyzed state records and also found leaks of the additive from 1,200 underground tank sites are within 1,000 feet of public supply wells, threatening the drinking water of millions of people. MTBE is added to gasoline to make it burn cleaner, but it has been linked to diseases.

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