In an apparent shift, the Bush administration is willing to consider a UN-endorsed multinational force in Iraq, so long as the force is led by an American, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said. However, the idea is just one of several being explored, Armitage noted in comments released Wednesday by the State Department. In a sign that any deal remains distant, the French foreign minister reaffirmed his government's insistence on a UN-run international force and the creation of a UN-backed provisional government in Baghdad.

The US economy grew at a solid 3.1 percent rate in the second quarter, the Commerce Department reported, faster than its previous estimate of a 2.4 percent rise in the gross domestic product (GDP) - the combined value of all US-generated goods and services. A big jump in military spending for the war in Iraq helped fuel the improvement.

The Environmental Protection Agency approved a controversial rule change Wednesday to allow upgrades of industrial plants without costly pollution-control devices. The shift will affect 17,000 power plants, refineries, factories, and other facilities across the country. Industry groups lobbied hard for the change, which was promptly denounced by environmental groups and drew threats of lawsuits from the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts.

The final death count stood at seven from the shooting rampage Wednesday in a Chicago warehouse, police said, confirming that the gunman was among those killed. Initial reports had said a suspect was in custody. Salvador Tapia was fired six months ago by Windy City Core Supply and had since made threatening calls to the owners, acting police Superintendent Phil Cline said. Two of the owners and one of their sons were among the victims.

Supporters of Dallas's first black police chief were denouncing his firing, and one city councilman warned that anger in the African-American community is "going to blow up if we don't do something." Mayor Laura Miller (D) denied that Tuesday's decision to terminate Terrell Bolton was racially motivated, said she supported it and was not happy with Bolton's performance during his four-year tenure.

A conservative group launched an attempt to recall Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn (R) Wednesday. Guinn had alienated Republicans in the state legislature by pushing through a record $836 million tax increase.

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