USA

Republican Jean Schmidt, a former Ohio state legislator, defeated Paul Hackett, an outspoken critic of the Bush administration, in a close election to replace US Rep. Rob Portman (R), who accepted an appointment as US trade representative. Democrats said they were encouraged by Hackett's showing in the heavily GOP district, even though he tried to identify himself more as an Iraq war veteran than as a Democrat. The margin was 52 percent to 48 percent.

Following the removal of two potentially dangerous ceramic-fiber strips from Discovery's underside, its astronauts planned to inspect a thermal blanket below the commander's window that was ripped during launch. Depending on its condition, another spacewalk for repairs is a possibility, NASA said. The exposed strips were removed easily by Stephen Robinson, who became the first astronaut to venture below the ship. NASA determined that the protrusions could have caused the shuttle to overheat during next Monday's scheduled reentry.

John Roberts, the Supreme Court nominee whose confirmation hearings begin Sept. 6, laid out some of his views on relevant issues in a document shared by the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. Legal experts said Roberts' responses to a committee questionnaire were noteworthy for striking a careful balance between honoring legal precedents and so-called judicial activism.

A Department of Energy-funded study has determined that it's safe to eat fish and other wild foods in a remote area of Alaska where nuclear tests were conducted 30 years ago. Still, scientists have urged regular monitoring of Amchitka Island.

Billionaire Rupert Murdoch, whose son, Lachlan, abruptly resigned as publisher of the New York Post last week, said Wednesday he'll resume the post himself. The elder Murdoch was the Post's publisher from 1976 to 1986.

Former Gov. Jay Hammond (R) of Alaska, who died Tuesday at his home 200 miles west of Anchor-age, made it his mission to embody the Alaskan spirit and life-style. During his 1975-to-1982 term, the state's broad-based tourism industry was born, its fishery stocks were revived, and the flow of crude oil through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline began.

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