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NEWS CAPSULES

Around the world

JAPAN MEMORIAL: Japan's emperor and empress laid flowers Thursday at a Tokyo temple dedicated to the estimated 100,000 people killed in a single night of U.S. firebombing during World War II. The visit ended the royal couple's closely watched weeklong prayer pilgrimage to the most heavily damaged Japanese cities, marking the 50th anniversary of the war's end. It was their first visit to the temple in downtown Tokyo, which is dedicated to the victims of the March 10, 1945, firebombing which destroyed about one-fifth of the city. Of the ashes stored inside the temple's crematorium, 70 percent have yet to be identified.

HONDURAS: In a show of force apparently aimed at cowing investigators, the Honduras army sent tanks into the streets and its commander expressed support for soldiers implicated in human rights abuses. The deployment in Tegucigalpa streets Wednesday came a day after the civilian government asked for U.S. help in identifying Honduran army officers implicated in the disappearance of 184 people in the 1980s. In 1993, the government revealed that a special military unit, Battalion 316, was responsible for the kidnappings and deaths of several suspected leftists in the 1980s. The battalion was trained and backed by the United States and Argentina.

Across the nation

STRUCK DOWN: A judge in Los Angeles has struck down a regional transit authority's affirmative action policy for hiring contractors, finding no basis for setting aside millions of dollars in contracts for "disadvantaged" firms. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by San Diego contractor Michael Cornelius, who was denied a piece of the $5.8 billion Los Angeles subway project because of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority policy. In Monday's decision, Superior Court Judge Dzintra I. Janavs cited the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in June that government may not use "racial classifications" to award funds except to remedy proven past discrimination.

FREE LOBSTER: A truck ran off a highway in Maine and left a windfall for dinner: 14,000 pounds of free lobster. With no facilities available to handle the $55,000 worth of crustaceans, the owner of the truck asked police to arrange to have them distributed to the folks of Island Falls just west of the Canadian province of New Brunswick. "There are a lot of people in Island Falls and the surrounding communities who are very happy tonight," state trooper Timmy Saucier said.