USA

President Bush's decision to abandon Yasser Arafat in Monday's speech on ultimate Palestinian statehood was made "reluctantly" and only after giving the latter numerous chances to stop terrorists and begin reforms, Secretary of State Powell said. But Powell told National Public Radio that "it was the only conclusion we could come to." Bush's plan calls for provisional statehood for the Palestinians and promises support from the US, Europe, and Arab states in organizing fair elections by the end of the year. In editorials, leading newspapers such as the Washington Post and New York Times called the speech incomplete and "a plan without a map," respectively.

Just a day after the US Supreme Court ruled that juries, rather than judges, must decide whether convicted murders should face the death penalty, state corrections systems were trying to decide what to do with inmates currently on death row. One option: commuting such sentences to life imprisonment, as was the case when the Supreme Court previously put a halt to the death penalty in the 1970s. Another: resentencing by juries, although some state officials claimed the high court's ruling is not retroactive and therefore will not apply to inmates who have exhausted all of their appeals.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said he was confident a deal will be reached to avert a shutdown of Amtrak, the passenger rail network. But the line's president, David Gunn, has warned that he'd begin dismantling it if the government does not guarantee a $200 million loan. Some lawmakers expressed frustration with the White House for allowing the system to come to the verge of a shutdown and expressed hope that the administration would keep Amtrak running for the busy summer season.

The largest fire in Arizona history burned to within a half mile of evacuated Show Low, as emergency crews and residents continued to work to save the threatened town. The fire has burned more than 350,000 acres and destroyed at least 375 homes. Bush, who visited the scene Tuesday, declared it a disaster area, making federal funding available for housing grants, low-cost loans, and other relief programs.

The economy is struggling to rebound fully from last year's recession, the Conference Board reported. Its Consumer Confidence Index dipped in June to a four-month low, hurt by corporate accounting scandals and concern about jobs. The index is closely monitored because consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of the nation's economic activity.

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