Astronauts check shuttle wing, nose

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Discovery's astronauts inspected their shuttle's wings and nose yesterday for any signs of damage after undocking from the space station and heading for home.

The flawless undocking ended nine days of linked flight. The station's newest addition, the 37-foot Japanese lab Kibo, was clearly visible as the shuttle flew a victory lap around the orbiting complex.

Shuttle commander Mark Kelly wished all the best to the American and two Russians remaining behind on the station. Astronaut Garrett Reisman, leaving the station after three months, had a few final words for his replacement, Gregory Chamitoff.

"I just want to let you know that you can have all of my uneaten Snickers bars," Reisman radioed. Chamitoff replied: "We found those last night and broke into them. Thanks." Discovery is due to land Saturday.

- AP

Mullen says stop loss far from over

FORT STEWART, Ga. - The U.S. military's top uniformed officer told Army troops yesterday that the unpopular "stop loss" policy would not end any time soon, and predicted a small rise in the number of troops forced to serve past their re-enlistment or retirement dates.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an audience of 600 soldiers at Fort Stewart that he understands the strain the stop-loss practice and multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have placed on service members.

"I would like to see an end to the stop-loss policy, but I don't see it happening in the near future," Mullen said.

Mullen said about 11,000 Army troops now serve under the policy, which critics have called a "backdoor draft." Retaining troops beyond the date they are due to leave the military has been necessary to keep units stocked with trained soldiers ready to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

- AP

Census workers to be checked

WASHINGTON - The Census Bureau said it would fingerprint and conduct background checks on more than a half-million temporary workers who will go door to door for the 2010 count, at a cost that could top $300 million.

Census Director Steven Murdock told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee yesterday that the measures were necessary to ensure the federal government does not send criminals into the nation's homes.

He said four census workers were accused of crimes in 2000, though none were convicted. Far more crimes, he said, were committed against census workers.

- AP

Elsewhere:

A helicopter rescued

two hikers from high on Mount Rainier in Washington state yesterday after they were caught in a freak June blizzard that caused a third hiker's death.

Sen. Lindsey Graham

(R., S.C.) easily won his party's state primary Tuesday but won't know his Nov. 4 opponent until South Carolina officials finish a recount. Engineer Bob Conley led lawyer Michael Cone by nearly 1,000 votes in the Democratic primary.