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Shuttle starts space station work

The Atlantis astronauts glided to a picture-perfect docking with the international space station early Sunday and geared up for an overnight spacewalk to electrically connect a new Russian command module.

Streaking through space at 5 miles per second, the 120-ton shuttle gently docked with the unmanned 67-ton space station at 1:52 a.m. Sunday as the two spacecraft passed above western Kazakstan.

If all goes well, Atlantis' seven-man crew will float into the station for the first time late today to begin readying the outpost for the early November arrival of its first full-time crew.

Sharpton threatens Burger King boycott

MIAMI _ The Rev. Al Sharpton said Sunday that he will call for a boycott of Burger King if the world's No. 2 fast-food chain does not discuss its attempt to revoke a black owner's franchises.

The dispute centers on Detroit restaurant owner La-Van Hawkins, who filed a $500-million lawsuit against Burger King in April. He alleged the restaurant courted him because of his race for a deal to open 225 inner-city restaurants and then used it against him to squelch his dream of owning a large string of Burger Kings in underserved communities.

Burger King countersued five days later. The restaurant wants Hawkins to return its property and says he owes more than $6.5-million from a loan given in 1998. Hawkins has also been sued by suppliers who say he has not paid his bills.

Burger King officials would not comment Sunday on Sharpton's proposed boycott, but spokeswoman Kim Miller said race plays no part in the company's dealings with Hawkins.

In politics . . .

PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: George W. Bush's campaign, urged by congressional Republicans to take the offensive in the presidential race, expressed eagerness Sunday to work out debating details and go head to head with Al Gore.

Foreshadowing difficult negotiations this week, the Bush camp voiced a continuing preference for TV debates with an informal style, not necessarily the formats proposed by a non-partisan commission and endorsed by Gore.

LAZIO PHOTO AT ISSUE: Rep. Rick Lazio defended his handshake with Yasser Arafat, insisting Sunday that there was a "big difference" between his greeting of the Palestinian leader and the greetings he has criticized the Clintons for giving Fidel Castro and Arafat's wife.

The White House over the weekend released a photograph of Arafat clasping the grinning Republican's hand. The photograph, which first appeared in Sunday's New York Post, was taken by a White House photographer in 1998 during a trip Lazio took to the Mideast with the Clintons and other U.S. officials.

The photograph was released a day after Lazio, Hillary Rodham Clinton's opponent for U.S. Senate, criticized the president for shaking hands with Cuban President Fidel Castro at the United Nations Millennium Summit last week.

When asked Sunday about the propriety of the White House releasing the Lazio-Arafat photo when she is involved in a hard-fought Senate campaign in which Jewish voters are a crucial prize, Clinton said: "You'll have to ask the White House about that. I think from the White House perspective, he attacked the president."

In health . . .

HORMONES MAY HELP ARTERIES: A Dutch study of more than 2,000 women bolsters research suggesting that hormone supplements taken in menopause have cardiovascular benefits.

Compared with subjects who never used estrogen and progestin, women who took those hormone supplements for at least a year had a 47 percent lower risk of peripheral artery disease, or hardening of the arteries in the legs.

The Dutch findings suggest that the benefits remain after women stop using hormones, according to the study in today's Archives of Internal Medicine, an American Medical Association publication.