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President Bush has exempted the Navy from an environmental law so that it can continue using sonar off the California coast for realistic antisubmarine training, the White House said Wednesday. Environmentalists have argued that sonar signals are harmful to marine animals.

The US is experiencing a baby boomlet, according to an Associated Press analysis of childbirth data. Nearly 4.3 million births in 2006 was the highest total since 1961. A decline in contraceptive use and poor education are among reasons experts cite for a US fertility rate that exceeds every country in continental Europe.

The repopulation of New Orleans, which began after hurricane Katrina in August 2005, has stalled at about 70 percent of pre-Katrina population, according to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. To lure back more residents, affordable housing, public transportation, and child care must be top priorities, a center spokeswoman says.

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