WASHINGTON -- The U.S. trade deficit hit a record $55.82 billion in June as the country's foreign oil bill surged to an all-time high, the government reported Friday. Soaring energy costs also showed up in wholesale prices for July, although a big drop in food costs helped keep the overall increase in the Labor Department's Producer Price Index down to a modest 0.1 percent. While food costs fell by 1.6 percent in July, the biggest one-month decline in more than two years, energy prices shot up by 2.3 percent, the biggest gain in six months.
British journalist freed by captors in Iraq
BASRA, Iraq -- Militants in the southern Iraqi city of Basra released a British journalist they kidnapped and threatened to kill after aides to militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr demanded Friday that he be freed. James Brandon, 23, who works for the Sunday Telegraph, was abducted from the Diafa Hotel late Thursday by about 30 gunmen. In a video given later to Associated Press Television News, he was shown standing bare-chested with his head bandaged.Brandon was brought to al-Sadr's local office and freed. He held an impromptu news conference there and thanked the kidnappers and al-Sadr's aides for working for his release.
African troops moving into crisis-ridden Sudan
NAIROBI, Kenya -- A contingent of Rwandan troops heads to Darfur this weekend -- the first foreign soldiers to deploy in western Sudan, where thousands have been killed in communal strife that some are calling genocide. Their main mission is to protect 80 African Union truce observers already there. But with a somewhat vague mandate, and Arabic nomads still attacking African farm villages, the 154 Rwandans could easily find themselves defending civilians and getting drawn into the conflict. The deployment comes amid intense international and regional efforts to end the bloodshed in Darfur, which has caused more than 1 million farmers to flee their homes and left some 2.2 million people in urgent need of food and other aid.
Political insider to take over as N.J. governor
WEST ORANGE, N.J. -- The state senator who will become New Jersey's acting governor is an old-fashioned politician with a penchant for one-liners -- a 30-year veteran who has weathered political battles and personal struggles. Senate President Richard J. Codey -- set to take over from Democratic Gov. James E. McGreevey on Nov. 15 and to stay until January 2006 -- promised Friday that New Jersey state would be "in very good hands." Colleagues say Codey's legislative experience will be an asset. It's not the first time Codey has been asked to take the helm under unusual circumstances. In early 2002, in the wake of former Gov. Christie Whitman's resignation to join President Bush's Cabinet, Codey served as acting governor before McGreevey took office.
Google goes ahead with first public stocks
SAN FRANCISCO -- Google Inc. forged ahead with its IPO auction Friday, even as the online search engine leader acknowledged a newly published magazine interview with its founders contained misleading information. The admissions, made in a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, enabled Google to avoid a last-minute delay in its long-awaited initial public offering, according to a source familiar with the negotiations with the SEC, who demanded anonymity.
-- From wire reports