USA

Secretary of State Powell has recommended resuming anti-drug flights over Colombia that were halted after the deaths of a US missionary and her baby in Peru two years ago, US officials said. They added that President Bush could approve the recommendation shortly, possibly in time for Thursday's one-year anniversary in office of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

The retirement of Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D) of South Carolina reportedly sparked intense interest among Republicans hoping to take over the seat in the increasingly GOP-leaning state. Hollings announced Monday that he will not seek reelection in 2004, ending a 55-year political career. He is the third senator to announce he'll retire after the 2004 vote, the others being Peter Fitzgerald (R) of Illinois, and Zell Miller, (D) of Georgia. The decisions by Hollings and Miller confront Democrats with the difficult task of holding on to both Southern seats while they attempt to regain control of the Senate.

Early voter turnout was reported strong for Mississippi's gubernatorial primary, in which incumbent Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) and nationally known Republican, Haley Barbour, faced little opposition. Each raised more than $5 million in donations for their campaigns to lead one of the nation's poorest states.

The US Forest Service has exhausted its firefighting budget at a time when more than two dozen large wildfires are raging in the West. The agency said it would begin transferring money from other accounts - including fire-prevention projects - to continue putting out fires, such as the Wedge Canyon fire in Montana that spread to the Flathead National Forest at the weekend.

Eleventh-hour allegations questioning his reputation have "surprised and dismayed" an openly gay Episcopalian clergyman seeking to become bishop of New Hampshire. Just as bishops convened Monday to consider approving the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, allegations emerged that he inappropriately touched a man and that he is connected to a gay-rights group whose website can indirectly link visitors to pornography. Robinson and representatives of his diocese decided "that a thorough investigation be undertaken before" the crucial final vote is taken.

A mission to the northern latitudes of Mars to study ice and soil will be launched in 2007, NASA said. The unmanned Phoenix lander, scheduled to touch down on the red planet in 2008, will investigate whether subsurface samples of the planet contain organic molecules. Two Mars rovers that will study if the planet ever had enough water to sustain life are expected to arrive in January.

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