Three more US combat brigades could be available for deployment to Afghanistan beginning in early 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday. Last week, the senior US general in Afghanistan said he needs at least 10,000 more ground troops beyond the 3,700 Army soldiers due early next year.

The worst US train crash since 1993 has Congress scrambling to pass major reforms before the election recess begins Friday. The House and Senate hope to iron out details that would limit the hours engineers work and mandate technology to stop trains on a collision course. The Sept. 12 crash of commuter and freight trains in Los Angeles killed 25 people.

Former CBS anchorman Dan Rather can proceed with his $70 million lawsuit against the network, which dumped him in 2006, a New York state judge ruled Monday. The decision allows him to press his breach of contract claim, which asserts CBS began cutting back on his assignments following a botched report on President Bush's military record.

Among 25 new "genius grant" award winners announced Tuesday by the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation are an inventor of musical instruments, a grass basket maker, and a sculptor of ordinary materials. Will Allen , the cofounder of the Growing Power urban farming program in Milwaukee, is among recipients to receive $500,000 apiece to use however they wish.

US wildlife officials have reversed course and asked a federal judge to put gray wolves in the Northern Rockies back on the endangered species list after a February ruling removed protections. A reevaluation could last months or years.

The pace of US immigration dropped dramatically last year, Census Bureau estimates released Tuesday indicate. Stepped-up enforcement and a faltering economy are cited as reasons only half a million people immigrated in 2007 compared with 1.8 million the year before. Altogether, a record 38 million immigrants, or 12.6 percent of the population, now lives in the US.

A small California Indian tribe has voiced concerns that if a proposal to enlarge Shasta Dam for the benefit of Central Valley farmers is approved, the ancestral land of the Winnemen Wintu will be lost. Ninety percent of the land was submerged in 1945 by another dam project.

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