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American returns from Iraq

Munitions expert Chad Hall returned to the United States on Monday after a "roller-coaster" two-day ordeal in custody in Iraq. "You can't imagine how happy I am to be home," Hall said upon arrival at Washington's Dulles Airport. He was greeted by his wife, Susie, and sons Chad and Craig. The capture of the 50-year-old Texan at gunpoint Thursday afternoon in a disputed section of Kuwait's border with Iraq threatened to ignite a new confrontation between Baghdad and Washington only weeks before the U.S. presidential election. Iraq blamed the incident on confusion along the unmarked frontier and released Hall to U.N. custody Saturday.

Johnson 2, Bush Cabinet 1

WASHINGTON _ Earvin "Magic" Johnson only attended two meetings of the National Commission on AIDS. But that's one more than all three members of the president's Cabinet who have seats on the commission and one more than President Bush gave Johnson credit for during Sunday's presidential debate. Carlton Lee, chief liaison officer of the commission, said Monday the biggest disappointment was Dr. Louis Sullivan, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, who attended only one of the commission's two dozen meetings since it formed in 1989. There have been six meetings since Johnson was appointed. During the debate, President Bush criticized Johnson, saying, "He went to one meeting and then we heard that he was stepping down." The Lakers basketball star _ who announced last year that he had tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS _ said he resigned because the administration was not taking the panel's work seriously enough.

German satellite launched

CAPE CANAVERAL _ An American Delta 2 rocket blasted off Monday morning with a $150-million German communications satellite that will serve Eastern Europe, and "all indications are it was a very smooth flight," said launch commentator Ray Adams. The satellite launched by St. Louis-based McDonnell Douglas is owned and operated by Deutsche Bundesport Telekom of Bonn, the world's third-largest provider of telecommunications services.

Most rioters go unpunished

LOS ANGELES _ Thousands were arrested during the riots last spring on charges of arson, assault, looting and curfew violations, clogging the courts and jails. But five months later only a handful of people have been imprisoned, and officials say most of the serious offenders are likely to go unpunished. During three days of near-anarchy in Los Angeles, dozens of people got away with murder, but only two cases have been brought in connection with any of the 52 riot-related deaths, a distict attorney spokesman said. Only two people have been convicted of arson in the hundreds of fires that were set in the largest outbreak of lawlessness the city has ever seen. Most of the 8,000 people arrested for looting and curfew violations were freed as soon as their cases were heard, after only a few days in jail. Although more than 2,000 injuries were reported in the riots, many in assaults, few other cases have been brought.

NASA quest for aliens starts

GOLDSTONE, Calif. _ The biggest search for aliens in space began Monday as NASA turned on giant radio telescope "ears" in California and Puerto Rico. Hundreds of NASA employees and guests sweltered under a desert sun as the big dish-shaped antenna slowly swiveled skyward and, at noon, started listening for radio signals from any alien civilizations in the constellation Ophiuchus (ah-fee-YOU-cus). At the same time, a larger antenna in Puerto Rico zeroed in on a star in the same region about 410-trillion miles from Earth. The space agency's 10-year project, budgeted at $100-million but facing cuts, seeks to answer the question: Are humans alone in the universe?

Sheriff slain in bank robbery

OAK CITY, N.C. _ A sheriff was shot and killed in an attempted bank robbery Monday, and a gunman was holding hostages inside the bank, authorities said. Sheriff Jerry Beach, 57, responded to a call from Branch Banking and Trust Co. employees. He was shot in the abdomen and died about 30 minutes later at a hospital. Two hostages were held during the day, authorities said.