USA

Former President Ronald Reagan, who is credited with reshaping the Republican Party in his conservative image and ending communism in the Soviet Union, died Saturday. The casket will be taken to his presidential library and museum in Simi Valley, Calif., and then flown to Washington to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda, where former presidents and diplomats will be in attendance. His funeral is expected to be at the National Cathedral, although no date has been set. Eventually a sunset burial at his California library is planned.

Facing allegations of gender bias and unfair treatment of workers, Wal-Mart announced this weekend that it will work harder to promote women to management and introduce a new pay system for hourly employees. Wal-Mart has been battling a public image crisis as communities across the nation have attempted to block the company from building stores in their towns.

US employers hired almost a quarter-million new workers in May, the Labor Department announced over the weekend. At the same time, the unemployment rate has held steady at 5.6 percent. May was also the fourth straight month of payroll increases after almost three years of continuous losses. The new figures are cementing predictions of the first interest-rate increase in four years when the Federal Reserve meets June 29.

Seven states in the Northeast and Midwest, in a letter delivered over the weekend, asked President Bush to force the Tennessee Valley Authority to reduce air pollution from its coal-burning power plants. The White House is reviewing the letter, and a spokeswoman said that the administration may soon mandate that the entire power sector cut emissions by 70 percent.

Smarty Jones lost his Triple Crown bid and his perfect record when Birdstone overtook him near the finish of Saturday's Belmont Stakes. The red chestnut was poised to become the 12th Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978. Smarty Jones is the sixth Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner to fall short in the 1-1/2-mile Belmont, the longest and most grueling of the three races.

Nearly 500 people were evacuated from gated communities north of Santa Barbara, Calif., as a wildfire scorched 5,000 acres on Saturday. More than 200 firefighters battled the blaze, keeping it away from two oil refineries, a fire department official said.

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