In a deal that could cost Ford Motor Co. $1 billion and affect millions of vehicles, the auto-maker agreed to settle a California lawsuit alleging that its cars and trucks stall. The deal ends years of litigation in which an Alameda County judge said Ford was wrong in denying ignition switches were defective and in concealing shabbily made parts from inspectors. The judge ordered 2 million vehicles in California recalled, but if the deal is approved, Ford also will have to replace ignition devices in 5 million vehicles nationwide.

The first tire-defect lawsuit to go to trial against Bridgestone/ Firestone opened in McAllen, Texas. The case involves a family injured when their 1998 Ford Explorer rolled over on a highway in Mexico after one of the company's tires blew out. Firestone has settled more than 150 cases out of court for undisclosed sums.

California officials filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency in a bid to reverse a decision requiring vehicles in the state use the additive ethanol, which adds oxygen to gasoline to make it burn cleaner. MTBE, the only oxygenate available besides ethanol, has been used in California fuel. But it's being phased out, and state officials would rather meet air-quality goals with reformulated gasoline. Using ethanol could cost California motorists more money because the additive must be imported from the Midwest.

The nation's black population grew almost three times as fast as its white counterpart during the 1990s, new Census Bureau figures showed. CNN reported whites remain the largest racial group in the US, but blacks increased by 16 percent from 1990 to 2000. Last year, 211 million people, or 75 percent of the population, reported themselves as "white alone," and the white population increased 6 percent. Those who reported being "black only" numbered 35 million, or 12 percent of the population.

Black freshman enrollment at the University of Florida is expected to drop by almost half this year under a new ban on using racial preferences in public university admissions, officials at the state's most elite public school said. Blacks represented about 12 percent of last year's freshman class last year, but the class entering this month will be 6 percent to 7 percent black. Minority enrollments at the state's other 10 universities appeared to be holding steady.

Two major newspapers in Rep. Gary Condit's California district called for his resignation, saying his conduct was "abhorrent" following the disappearance of Chandra Levy, an intern with whom he allegedly had an affair. In editorials, The Fresno Bee, which has supported Condit for 30 years, and the Modesto Bee accused him of actively hindering police efforts to find Levy and said he violated public trust. Condit called the editorials "terribly unfair."

Hollywood actors voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new contract that includes a 9.5 percent pay increase over the next three years for for those working in television. The pact was OK'd by members of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federal of Television and Radio Artists, who negotiated it with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers July 3.

Dry weather, lightning, and high winds drove a series of large fires further across northern Nevada, the hardest-hit state in the West. The largest blaze, 25 miles north of Battle Mountain, had doubled in size, burning across 82,000 acres. Nevada's seven largest fires have burned at least 100,000 acres over the past week. Parts of the state have experienced the driest weather in a century. Reports said 25 homes were threatened.

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