USA

The economy grew by a brisk 2.4 percent in the second quarter, in part because of the biggest surge in defense spending since the Korean War era. The pickup in gross domestic product (GDP), from an annual rate of 1.4 percent in each of the two prior quarters, easily beat Wall Street economists' forecasts for a 1.5 percent pace of second-quarter growth and showed relatively broad-based gains. In releasing the data, the Commerce Department noted that the GDP was largely boosted by a 44.1 percent increase in defense spending, but that higher business investment and consumer spending also contributed.

The Homeland Security Department announced it will begin testing a program to classify all airline passengers according to their security risk. Privacy advocates, however, have criticized the plan on grounds that it could lead to unconstitutional invasions of privacy and database mixups that could brand innocent people as potential terrorists. Nuala O'Connor Kelly, Homeland Security's chief privacy officer, said the program has been reworked so less personal information will be checked. People will be able to to find out what's in the database about them, Kelly said.

The American Civil Liberties Union and several Islamic groups sued the federal government over a section of the USA Patriot Act that lets FBI agents monitor the books people read. The ACLU called the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Detroit, the first direct challenge to the provision of the act that allows the FBI to secretly order librarians and others to disclose reading lists or other information as part of terrorism investigations. The Justice Department defends the act as a crucial weapon in the war on terrorism.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice took "personal responsibility" for President Bush's now-discredited charge that Iraq was seeking uranium from an African country. Appearing on PBS's "News- hour," Rice said what she feels "most responsible for is that [the controversy] has detracted from the very strong case" the president made for war in Iraq. Earlier Wednesday at a White House news conference, Bush said in reference to the comment in his State of the Union address, "I take personal responsibility for everything I say."

Five teenagers were expected to be arraigned in connection with a firebombing that left a Farmingville, N.Y., immigrant family of five homeless last month. The five males, the oldest of whom is 18, were charged with arson and reckless endangerment as hate crimes, according to a law-enforcement officer. The family has said they believe they were targeted because they are Mexican.

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