USA

Other than his taped messages, Osama bin Laden is powerless and does not appear to be triggering a new attack against the US, President Bush's homeland security adviser, Frances Fragos Townsend, said Sunday. In his newest tape, released Friday, bin Laden makes no overt threats, but tells Americans they should convert to Islam if they want to end the war in Iraq.

Texas's Hunt Oil Co. and Kurdistan's regional government said Saturday they've signed a production-sharing contract for petroleum exploration in northern Iraq, the first such deal since the Kurds passed their own law governing foreign oil investments despite opposition from Iraq's central government.

Rejecting criticisms from civil liberties groups, the Department ofHomelandSecurity has agreed to only modest changes in the Automated Targeting System, which assesses the terrorist threat level posed by Americans traveling abroad. While travelers will still not be allowed to see their risk assessments, DHS will no longer share its data with government officials deciding whether a person gets a job, a security clearance, or a business license.

Two-thirds of the world's polar bear population could be gone by mid-century if predictions of melting ice hold true, the US Geological Survey reported Friday. Because Arctic sea ice might be thawing faster than computer models predict, the animals' fate may be even bleaker than that, the geological survey said in a report aimed at determining if the bear should be listed as a threatened species. Above, a polar bear and her two cubs rest in their Arctic landscape.

Sports and entertainment celebrities gathered at talk show host Oprah Winfrey's Montecito, Calif., estate on Saturday to attend a fundraiser for Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. The presidential candidate's campaign gained roughly $3 million from the $2,300-per-ticket event. Below, Winfrey (r.) talks with Senator Obama (c.) and his wife, Michelle, at the event.

Presidential candidate Sen. Christopher Dodd (D) of Connecticut told a Florida crowd on Saturday that, as president, he would end the decades-old trade embargo with Cuba and lift travel restrictions to the communist-run island. Dodd, calling the policy an "abject failure" and internationally unpopular, also said he would open an embassy in Havana and shut down the 17-year-old TV Marti, a US government-run station that broadcasts to Cuba.

Optimism waned and concern grew Sunday as the search for adventurer Steve Fossett entered its sixth day. Fossett's Labor Day disappearance, as he flew solo over northwestern Nevada looking for a place to break the land speed record, has prompted a massive aerial search that at times involved as many as 45 aircraft.

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