USA news in brief

Compiled by Monitor staff from wire service reports.

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Over White House protests, the House voted Wednesday to place conditions on a $6.4 billion economic and development aid package for Afghanistan that runs through fiscal 2010. Lawmakers would bar funding to areas where Afghan officials are found to be engaged in the drug trade or helping insurgents. The Senate must now consider the legislation.

According to the Pentagon, suspected Al Qaeda operative Abdullahi Sudi Arale was captured somewhere "in the Horn of Africa region." Arale, who's believed to be a weapons and documents courier between Pakistan and East Africa, was taken to the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay.

Ford Motor Co. took the top spot Wednesday in the annual vehicle quality rankings by J.D. Power and Associates, an independent surveying company. It was the first time that an American manufacturer earned top honors since 1998, when Ford tied with Toyota and Honda. Ford supplanted Toyota in rankings based on maintenance records.

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Republican presidential candidates Rudy Giuliani and John McCain said Wednesday that they would bypass an August straw vote that serves as a dress rehearsal for next January's caucuses. Although some observers believe their absence will render the straw vote meaningless, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the only top-tier candidate committed to the nonbinding contest, declared, "I just got a win of sorts."

An opening ceremony for the first affordable-housing project built in New Orleans's impoverished Ninth Ward since hurricane Katrina was met with both cheers and jeers. Protesters were critical of the slow pace at which low-income housing is being rebuilt.

In announcing a 40 percent staff reduction of the NAACP, interim leader Dennis Hayes said "We are right-sizing our organization." The civil rights group, which is headquartered in Baltimore, has shrinking reserves and problems with budget shortfalls.

Department of Energy technicians have dismantled 50 percent more nuclear warheads during the last eight months than in the entire previous year. Although the government has not released numbers, it is believed that thousands have been dismantled, while about 6,000 remain deployed or in active stockpiles. Removed plutonium will be converted into power plant fuel.

The Anaheim Ducks defeated the Ottawa Senators 6-2 at home in Game 5 of the NHL Finals to take home the franchise's, and the Western Conference's first-ever Stanley Cup.

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