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President Bush is being kept informed on the US military operation in Afghanistan and regrets the loss of American lives, the White House said, after at least six more soldiers were killed in the biggest assault to date in the conflict. "The president's reaction is that this is an ongoing operation in a war in which [he] has said there will be casualties," spokesman Ari Fleischer said. On a scheduled trip, Bush was to press proposals for teacher training at Eden Prairie High School outside Minneapolis and help raise money for Republican Norm Coleman's Senate campaign.

The human rights policies of China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia came in for sharp criticism in an annual assessment by the State Department. The report, due for release after press time Monday but shared with news agencies, also accuses security forces in Pakistan and Uzbekistan, US allies in the counterterrorism war, of torture and other abuses, which in Pakistan's case include extrajudicial killings. Israel, too, came in for criticism. The report says its practices are sometimes questionable as the government struggles with a barrage of terrorist attacks by Palestinian and other Islamic militant groups. The report can affect foreign aid and other decisions by Congress.

In a major decision for consumers, the Supreme Court upheld federal rules designed to give people a choice in electricity providers. Utility regulators in nine states - Florida, Idaho, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, Vermont, and Wyoming - had challenged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's right to force them to open transmission lines to power competitors. The 1996 requirement effectively ended monopolies in many states.

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In a race considered too close to call, California Republican voters decide today who will represent them on the November ballot for governor. Opinion polls show conservative businessman Bill Simon even or slightly ahead of former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan. Riordan has blamed a $10 million negative-ad campaign financed by Gov. Gray Davis - a Democrat running for reelection - for his GOP rival's sudden surge in popularity. Secretary of State Bill Jones is running a distant third in the Republican primary race. (Related story, page 11.)

Astronauts are to make the second of five space walks outside the shuttle Columbia today to repair and refit the aging Hubble Telescope. "We're here to give you more power," John Grunsfeld declared on the first walk Monday, as he and Richard Linnehan (above, in an image from television) installed the first of two 25-foot solar panels on the tethered observatory.

For the first time since being charged in the shooting death of a limousine driver, retired National Basketball Association star Jayson Williams was to appear in court in Flemington, N.J. The former New Jersey Nets player is charged with second-degree manslaughter for recklessly handling a shotgun that killed Costas Christofi Feb. 14, while on a tour of Williams' 40-room mansion.

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