USA

President Bush's proposal for a Homeland Security Department is on its way to a House vote this week, having been approved Friday night by the House Select Committee on Homeland Security. The 5-to-4 vote, along party lines, fractured the veneer of bipartisan cooperation that had surrounded the issue. In the Democrat-controlled Senate, which starts its own committee hearings on the proposal Wednesday, leaders hinted they may challenge the measure mainly at its edges, not its heart.

House and Senate negotiators promised swift action as they began drafting compromise legislation aimed at fighting business fraud. One lawmaker said they already agree "on about 90 percent of the issues." In his weekly radio address Saturday, Bush stepped up his efforts to stabilize stock markets and shield himself from blame for the crisis, urging Congress to send the final bill to his desk before adjourning for the month-long August recess. "It's time to act decisively to bring a new era of integrity to American business," Bush said.

Aiming to break the grip of US bishops on church power and finances, Roman Catholics from around the nation converged on Boston Saturday to devise a reform strategy. The meeting drew about 4,000 people from Voice of the Faithful, a lay group founded in the basement of a Boston church amid growing evidence that bishops failed to act against priests accused of molesting children. The group vowed to "actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church."

An order grounding much of the nation's firefighting fleet of heavy-duty air tankers was lifted Saturday, two days after the second deadly crash since June in the middle of a busy wildfire season. Still grounded, though, were nine planes – the same types as those that had crashed. So far this year, wildfires have burned more than 3.5 million acres around the country. On Saturday, a wind-whipped fire in Washington State threatened residential areas near Lake Chelan, where nearly 300 homes were evacuated. In Oregon, two wildfires merged to create an 83,000-acre blaze.

Utility officials in New York were confident Sunday that ample power would be supplied to lower Manhattan at the start of the workweek. A transformer explosion and fire at a substation Saturday caused a blackout in the area, leaving about 63,000 people without power and snarling traffic. The cause of the explosion was not immediately known.

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