Vote on Gay Marriage

In Mo. to Be in August

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- In a victory for the Democrats, Missourians will vote in August -- not in November -- on a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Under pressure from Missouri's Supreme Court, Republican Secretary of State Matt Blunt agreed Thursday to put the measure on the ballot this summer.

The Democrats did not want the contentious issue to get tangled up in the November general election.

In a 6 to 1 decision, the state Supreme Court did not directly order Blunt to put the issue on the August ballot but said he should. Shortly after the ruling, a Blunt spokesman said the secretary of state will follow the court's wishes.

Missouri has a law against gay marriage. But legislators last month passed a proposed one-sentence addition to the state constitution: "That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman."

Ex-Ukrainian Premier

Convicted in Calif.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Former Ukrainian prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko was found guilty on charges of money laundering, wire fraud and extortion related to a series of business schemes in his homeland.

Prosecutors said Lazarenko used his political clout to set up an international underground network of bank accounts to launder profits made through the business schemes in Ukraine. The government said $114 million was directed to banks in the United States, mostly in San Francisco. Lazarenko, 51, has denied the charges.

He is the first former head of government to be tried in the United States since Panama's Manuel Noriega, who was convicted on drug-trafficking charges in 1992.

* DALLAS -- More than 400,000 homes and businesses in Texas and adjoining states remained without power after deadly storms that brought hurricane-force wind and large hail. About 300,000 of the cutoff customers were in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where back-to-back storms caused an estimated $100 million in damage.

* The Nuclear Regulatory Commission asked operators of 69 nuclear plants to report how they inspect for reactor cracks after finding massive corrosion at an Ohio plant.

* WATERFORD, Conn. -- Federal nuclear regulators asked a dozen power plants to take stock of their fuel rods, after the loss of rods at two New England sites. While there is no evidence those missing rods got into the hands of terrorists, regulators said they want a better idea of how spent fuel is managed.

-- From News Services