USA

A wide-ranging $11.5 billion energy bill, the first comprehensive package since 1992, may come before the Senate as early as Thursday and seems destined for approval. Although loaded with compromises after Senate and House negotiators reconciled the differences between their separate versions of the bill, it supports more energy diversification with subsidies and tax breaks for solar, wind, geothermal, and nuclear power.

On their first full day in space, the seven-astronaut crew of the shuttle Discovery kept busy testing tools and equipment for three spacewalks, including one to inspect the wings and nose for possible damage during Tuesday's liftoff.

Councilwoman and surf shop owner Donna Frye, a Democrat, led a field of 11 candidates Tuesday in San Diego's special election for mayor. But without a majority of votes, she must face former police chief Jerry Sanders (R) in a Nov. 8 runoff. Last November, Frye barely lost a hotly disputed election to incumbent Dick Murphy (R), who later resigned.

Gov. George Pataki (R) of New York, a possible presidential aspirant in 2008, told associates Tuesday that he would not seek a fourth term next year, the Associated Press reported.

The House passed a bill viewed as a "lifesaver" for the Postal Service, which has seen lucrative first-class mail decline as Internet use grows. If passed by the Senate and signed by President Bush, the measure would give the service more flexibility in setting rates and in some operations, but also would require it to maintain six-day-a-week mail delivery.

The Rev. Sharon Watkins of Oklahoma was elected president Tuesday of the Disciples of Christ, becoming the first woman voted to lead a major Protestant denomination in the US. Meanwhile, the American Civll Liberties Union sued the state of North Carolina, seeking an OK for religious texts other than the Bible to be used in administering courtroom oaths.

Chicago developer Christopher Carley unveiled plans for a corkscrew skyscraper that would be the nation's tallest. Some observers doubt the feasibility of the structure, which would rise to 1,458 feet, minus its spire, or eight feet higher than Chicago's 110-story Sears Tower, the nation's tallest building. New York's Freedom Tower, to be built on the former World Trade Center site, is slated to rise 1,362 feet, minus its spire.

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