USA

The Senate easily passed energy legislation that would cost an estimated $16 billion over the next decade but which skirts such contentious issues as drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) - a priority of the Bush administration. Republican and Democratic Party leaders both said they look forward to reconciling the measure with an $8 billion version passed by the House in April, although that may not be easy. House GOP leaders also strongly favor drilling in ANWR and - unlike the Senate bill - theirs would extend protections to oil companies and refinery operators who confront lawsuits over contaminated water supplies from the gasoline additive MBTE.

The danger appeared to be over for residents of a Utah town threatened by a wildfire that blackened 10,000 acres before being contained by emergency crews. More than 1,000 people were ordered to evacuate late Sunday as the blaze closed in on New Harmony, 280 miles south of Salt Lake City. It is one of 20 burning their way across parts of Utah, Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Washington State.

Despite more than two years of work, the US space agency still hasn't met crucial recommendations for safely resuming shuttle flights, an oversight panel warned Monday. Each of the recommendations involves the potential dangers of ice or pieces of foam breaking off the external fuel tank and striking a shuttle on lift-off, as happened to Columbia in 2003. Another launch is scheduled next month, but members of the panel, meeting at Cape Canaveral, Fla., said even a delay of a few months probably wouldn't result in the risks being reduced significantly.

Medical doctors were taking issue with the findings of a newly published survey that disputes the usefulness of yearly physical exams. The study, by a panel of researchers commissioned by Congress and appearing in the Archives of Internal Medicine, neither recommends nor argues against such checkups. A companion survey of primary-care doctors said 65 percent of respondents think the exams are necessary.

Wal-Mart Inc. heir John Walton, ranked as the world's 11th richest person, was killed Monday, when his ultralight experimental plane crashed shortly after takeoff in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Authorities said the cause of the accident will be investigated.

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