Long-range, missile-carrying Russian bombers have been tracked flying more missions than normal recently near US territory, including Alaska, American and Canadian defense officials said Monday. Defense analysts believe the flights may reflect Moscow's desire to flex its military muscle as the US pursues plans to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe.

Anticipating Hawaii's first hurricane since 1992, all schools on the Big Island were closed Tuesday and the Hawaii National Guard was activated as Flossie, a Category 3 storm packing heavy rain and winds of 115 m.p.h., churned across the Pacific. Meteorologists expected the sparsely populated, southern side of the Big Island to be hardest hit.

US exports and imports both set records in June while the US trade deficit dropped to a four-month low, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. Increased sales of semiconductor chips, autos, and farm goods such as corn and meat raised exports 1.5 percent to $134.5 billion. Imports inched up 0.5 percent to $192.7 billion.

Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. said he will promote teamwork and cross-cultural communication in accepting his new post as a special envoy of the State Department. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the announcement in Washington alongside Ripken, whose first trip will be to China in October.

At its annual meeting in San Francisco, the American Bar Association overwhelmingly passed a resolution Monday urging Congress to override White House approval of "enhanced interrogation" techniques by the CIA.

Robert C. Dynes, who announced Monday that he'd step down as president of the 10-campus University of California system next June, said he wanted to resolve a controversy over top administrators' pay before making the decision. He said he would refocus on superconductivity research after spending five years as president.

America's Promise Alliance, which raises money for disadvantaged children, is the sole beneficiary of an auction of a one-of-a-kind evening gown worn by the late Princess Diana. The charity event, sponsored by the WE cable television network, is being conducted on eBay through Aug. 22.

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