Grass fires scorched thousands of acres in Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico, where lingering drought, wind gusts, and temperatures of 80 and 90 degrees created favorable conditions. In Stephens County in southwestern Oklahoma, two volunteer firefighters were severely burned while battling a blaze eight miles long that destroyed at least 30 homes and forced numerous evacuations. One man suspected of starting the fire was taken into custody by authorities and a another is sought.

The US is looking for ways to continue getting humanitarian aid to Palestinians, which totalled $1.5 billion during the past decade, without breaking US laws, a state department spokesman said Thursday. Direct financial aid cannot be given to a Hamas-led government since the US considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

Looking to head off more possible controversy over deals with national security implications, officials of the Bush administration have opened a probe with a second Dubai-owned company, The Washington Post reported. The US is investigating Dubai International Capital's acquisition of London-based Doncasters Group Ltd., a precision- partsmaker that operates in nine US locations. A call for greater vetting grows out of concerns for a Dubai Port World deal, now undergoing a new 45-day review, to run terminals at six US ports. Meanwhile, an Israeli security-software firm's bid to buy a rival Maryland company is also under review.

An antiabortion bill similar to one adopted last week in South Dakota cleared a Mississippi public-health committee review and could be voted on by its House next week. The bill would only allow abortions to save a woman's life and not make exceptions for rape or incest.

For the first time since it began selecting the best vehicles in 1997, Consumer Reports made Japanese models the top picks in every category. The Honda Civic is rated the top overall small sedan. Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus ranks first in reliability, another major category.

Nearly 60 percent of Americans between the ages of 35 and 49 saved too little last year (less than $10,000) to sustain an average middle-class lifestyle in retirement, according to a Financial Services Forum poll.

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