USA

Airlifted US evacuees from Lebanon, where Israel continues to bomb Hizbullah targets, began arriving Thursday morning at Baltimore-Washington International airport. Officials said an estimated 8,000 of 25,000 US citizens in Lebanon want out of the country. About 1,000 arrived in Cyprus via a cruise ship. A CNN poll indicates that two-thirds of Americans want the US to stay out of the conflict.

Fed by heat-wave temperatures, a powerful storm packing 80 m.p.h. winds ripped through St. Louis Thursday morning, leaving 486,000 customers without electricity. According to officials, 100-degree heat has contributed to the deaths of at least 16 people in seven states, though none in St. Louis.

Chicago police abused at least half of 148 criminal suspects who claimed they were subjected to brutal interrogations during the 1970s and 1980s, according to an investigation. Federal prosecutors said that although some of the allegations were true, the cases are too old or weak to prosecute.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said Thursday that the department would scale back its $1 million-a-week testing program for mad cow disease. During the past three years, tests have confirmed only three cases of the disease. International guidelines call for the US to perform 110, not 1,000, tests per day, as it currently does.

The House, by a 260-to-167 margin, passed a bill that would shield federal courts from ruling on the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance, including the "one nation, under God" reference. The legislation faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

All 400,000 rooms in the Marriott International Inc. hotel chain, the nation's largest, will now be "nonsmoking," The Washington Post reported. The decision is aimed at increasing business, since only 5 percent of guests request smoking rooms, while nonsmokers sometimes complain of cigarette odors.

About a quarter of Southern coastal residents polled by Harvard University said they would ignore government hurricane evacuation orders. Survey participants indicated they'd stay put because of confidence their homes could weather a storm, a belief that roads would be too crowded, and concern that evacuating would be too dangerous.

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