USA

Testifying before a skeptical Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales conceded that "reasonable people might disagree" with the Justice Department's controversial firing of eight federal prosecutors. He added, however, that the decision was "justified and should stand." During the grilling, which could determine whether Gonzales stays in office, he said he "never sought to deceive the Congress or the American people" in his handling of the matter.

Speaking about what he called the genocide in Sudan's Darfur region, President Bush said Wednesday that the US will tighten sanctions and consider other punitive actions if the Sudanese government doesn't quickly cooperate with the UN. During his remarks at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, Bush accused the Sudanese of painting military aircraft to look like UN planes and suggested that steps could be taken to ground them.

Democratic leaders met for an hour with President Bush Wednesday in the White House to discuss an Iraq war funding bill that could soon be on his desk. Consistent with earlier vows, the president told Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, and others that he will veto any House-Senate compromise that includes a timetable for troop withdrawal.

The US Interior Department said it was sending firefighting specialists to southeastern Georgia after a wildfire destroyed 14 homes Wednesday near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, one of the nation's best-preserved wetland areas. The blaze, which started Monday when a tree fell on a power line, has burned about 25,000 acres of woodlands left vulnerable by a drought.

A contractor suspected of tampering with computers used by the agency that controls California's electricity transmission was arraigned in a Sacramento federal court Thursday. Consumers experienced no loss of service.

Nationwide, state finances improved for a fourth straight year, prompting more spending on transportation, education, and pensions, according to data released Thursday by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Forty-two states have extra money due to more personal income and business tax revenues than predicted.

Rescue crews hoping to reach two trapped miners had removed thousands of tons of rocks at an open pit coal mine near Barton, Md., by late Wednesday. About half the debris from the mine wall collapse still buries the men, with whom there's been no contact.

Broadway theaters dimmed their lights Wednesday in memory of Kitty Carlisle Hart, who died Tuesday in New York. A National Medal of Arts recipient, she enjoyed a long stage, film, and TV career.

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