USA

In what NASA called a space "doubleheader," an American and a Russian astronaut completed a repair to the International Space Station Wednesday and the US-European Cassini spacecraft completed a tricky maneuver to settle into orbit around Saturn. The carefully choreographed Cassini flight allowed the craft to be captured by Saturn's gravity in a near-perfect orbit 900 million miles from Earth. Now, a four-year mission begins to explore Saturn and its 31 known moons. During the riskier-than-usual spacewalk of almost six hours, Mike Fincke and Gennady Padalka traveled about 100 feet to plug in a new circuit breaker, needed to restore power to a gyroscope used in guiding the station. The part stopped working in April. Last week a first try at making the walk was cut short by a spacesuit problem.

The Federal Reserve increased a key interest rate by quarter of a percentage point Wednesday in an expected incremental hike aimed at keeping the rebounding economy and inflation in balance. The decision raised the federal funds rate, the Fed's chief tool for influencing economic activity, from a 46-year low of 1 percent to 1.25 percent. The prime lending rate, which has been at 4 percent, is expected to rise to 4.25 percent. The Fed also hinted that more rate increases are coming, perhaps when it meets Aug. 10.

The number of working-age adults without health insurance for more than a year rose by 2.6 million to a total of 24.5 million in 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday. The increase underscores that surging job creation doesn't guarantee access to health insurance, analysts said.

The White House brushed off accusations from Saddam Hussein, who called President Bush the "real criminal'' during his arraignment in Baghdad on charges of war crimes and genocide. Administration spokesman Scott McClellan said the deposed Iraqi president will "continue to say all sorts of things" but that Iraqis will "bring closure to the dark past" of his "brutal dictatorship."

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