USA

The space shuttle Discovery separated from the international space station Saturday in anticipation of completing a nearly two-week mission Monday. On Sunday, Mission Control gave the crew the green light to land either at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., or at a backup site. According to NASA, no problems were found with the shuttle's protective skin, damage to which caused the Columbia's reentry disaster in 2003. Discovery completed "every objective" of its mission, according to a flight manager, including dropping off European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter for a six-month space-station stay.

Nearly 4,000 firefighters battled wildfires over the weekend across 60,000 acres 100 miles east of Los Angeles. Fire officials said the fire's eastern flank was about 50 percent contained, but concerns remained about its western side and possible flooding from thunderstorms forecast Sunday for the Yucca Valley.

By the end of next year, Ford Motor Co. expects to shed up to 24,000 hourly jobs in North America, according to The Detroit News. The company didn't confirm reports about 2007 and beyond, but did say it anticipates that 10,000 to 11,000 workers will take early retirement or buyout offers this year.

The campaign for Ned Lamont, the Democratic challenger to US Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, said it has both raised and spent $1.9 million in the last two months. The campaign, which is not accepting Washington lobbyist money, received $1.1 million from Lamont, a Greenwich millionaire. If Lieberman loses the primary, he's said he would form a new party, and began collecting signatures to petition his way onto the November ballot as an independent.

Although the National Transportation Safety Board hasn't reached its final conclusions about the cause of the July 11 Chicago subway derailment, investigators said that some track was too wide. It exceeded the standard rail-to-rail width by up to 1-1/8 inches, enough to have caused the accident, which sent 150 people to the hospital.

Mount St. Helens trails that had to be closed to Washington State hikers in 2004 when the volcano reawakened are scheduled to reopen beginning July 21. While the crater itself will remain off limits, the Forest Service will issue 100 daily permits to hike above the tree line. Scientists have determined the chances of an eruption appear remote.

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