USA

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, the State Department's third-ranking official, reaffirmed the White House's position that Israel has the right to defend itself and declined to call for an immediate cease-fire, saying only that the administration was working to arrange for a sustainable cease-fire soon.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair will discuss forging links between stem-cell researchers in the UK and California during his visit to the state this week. Blair will meet Monday with executives from American biotechnology firms and said he hopes to schedule a UK-California conference for later this year.

NASA is considering shutting down all of its research programs on the International Space Station for at least a year to fill a projected budget shortfall of $100 million caused by slashed budgets, hurricane damage, and shuttle-program overruns. The shuttle fleet should continue its four or five flights a year to complete assembly of the half-built, $100-billion station. The shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to take off Aug. 27.

Immigration judges vary widely in their willingness to grant asylum to foreigners seeking to live in the US – with denial rates ranging from 10 percent to more than 98 percent, according to a study released Monday by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. Between 1994 and 2005, people from El Salvador, Mexico, and Haiti were denied asylum 80 percent of the time. Asylum-seekers from Afghanistan and Burma were denied 30 percent of the time.

Olympic and world 100-meter titlist Justin Gatlin tested positive for prohibited steroids after a relay race in Kansas last April. Gatlin, who in May tied Jamaica's Asafa Powell for the world record in the 100-meter at 9.77 seconds, would lose the record if the US Anti-Doping Agency's initial result is upheld.

Arizona persecutors have charged Daniel Strauss and Shanti Sellz, who say they tried to save the lives of three sick migrants stranded in the desert, with felony charges of transporting illegal immigrants. Border Patrol agents arrested the two in July 2005 as they attempted to drive the migrants to a Tucson, Ariz., hospital. If convicted, they could face up to 15 years in prison and a half-million-dollar fine.

Three in 10 adults regularly go online for news reports, but Americans still spend more of their time reading newspapers and watching TV news, according to a study by the Pew Research Center released Sunday.

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