USA

The price of crude oil for future delivery nudged down 21 cents a barrel to $66.65 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, but the cost of gasoline at the pump was at its third record high of the year. The widely respected Lundberg survey of 7,000 filling stations put the price of a gallon of self-serve regular at $2.50 as of last Friday. The previous high was $2.30 on July 8. The highest average price, according to the survey, was in San Diego: $2.76. The lowest, $2.31, was reported in Cheyenne, Wyo. Analyst Trilby Lundberg said, however, that traders don't expect crude oil to go "significantly higher," meaning that the price of gasoline at the pump may stabilize as the summer driving season winds down.

The Associated Press pledged to make more of an effort to report positive news from Iraq following protests from readers that its coverage has tended to dwell on "explosions and shootings and fatalities," The New York Times said. The wire service has received dozens of e-mails on the subject, many of them relayed through subscribing newspapers, prompting "an unusual discussion" with editors last month in New York at which participants discussed how "it was much easier to add up the number of dead than to determine how many hospitals received power on a particular day," the Times said. It quoted AP managing editor Mike Silverman as saying, "The main obstacle we face is the severe limitation on our movement and our ability to get out and report."

The largest wildfire in the US was being watched carefully as a low-pressure system headed toward southeastern Washington State, bringing the hope of cooler temperatures. The blaze, already blackening 49,000 acres, has destroyed more than 100 residences and was only about 65 percent contained by early Monday. Meanwhile, an 11,000-acre fire was burning in Montana and crews were battling four others in Idaho.

Saying, "This is really about poor black men," dozens of homeless activists and their supporters in Atlanta held a sleep-in Sunday night at City Hall to protest a proposed ordinance that would ban panhandling in the downtown business district. A vote on the ban, which has the support of business owners, was scheduled for Monday by City Council. On a third offense, beggars could be sentenced to jail terms.

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