Businessman Bill Simon dropped out of California's gubernatorial recall race Saturday, citing his desire to narrow the GOP field in a campaign that has drawn 135 candidates. Analysts said Simon's departure further boosts the chances of Arnold Schwarzennegger, already far ahead of other Republicans seeking to replace Gov. Gray Davis (D) Oct. 7. Opinion polls show the actor neck-and-neck with the only high-profile Democrat in the race, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.

Convicted child molester and ex-priest John Geoghan died Saturday, apparently at the hands of a fellow inmate at a correctional facility outside Boston. Geoghan, a central figure in the clergy sex abuse scandal in the US Roman Catholic Church, was attacked by convicted murderer Joseph Druce, authorities said. Some 130 people claim Geoghan abused them during his three decades as a priest in Boston-area parishes. He had been isolated from the general prison population since his 2002 conviction but had contact with inmates in protective custody.

A US appeals court ordered that $4 billion in punitive damages from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill be reconsidered by a federal judge in Alaska. The order comes on the heels of a recent US Supreme Court ruling, in which $145 million in damages from a State Farm Insurance case was ruled excessive. Exxon Mobil Corp. said Friday it should pay no more than $25 million, since it has awarded $300 million voluntarily to more than 11,000 Alaskans and businesses affected by the spill.

A ruptured pipeline in Phoenix was set to resume operation Sunday, after causing gasoline shortages, long lines, and hefty price hikes in the nation's sixth-largest city since it broke down Aug. 8. Officials at Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, which owns the corroded pipeline that supplies a third of the city's gas, warned it will take another week before supplies of fuel are fully restored.

The nation's violent crime rate hit a record low in 2002, the Justice Department reported Sunday. The survey of violent and property crimes identified some 23 million victims last year, far below the 44 million recorded in 1973, when it began compiling such records. Experts attributed the decline to a less-violent drug trade, a drop in gang membership, and improved home security.

Florida's Boynton Beach won the US Little League Championship Saturday, beating Saugus, Mass., 9-2. The team was to face Japan Sunday at the World Championship game in Williamsport, Pa.

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