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Gay couples must be given the same benefits and protections granted to married couples of the opposite sex, Vermont's Supreme Court ruled. The court said state legislators will determine whether such benefits must come through formal marriage or a system of domestic partnerships.

A massive manhunt was under way in Canada and the US for a suspected accomplice of Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian charged with bringing bombmaking materials into Washington State. Ressam reportedly had two ferry-ticket stubs when he was arrested in Port Angeles - which suggests a companion may have walked off the boat with him. Port Angeles is about 60 miles northwest of Seattle.

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Nuclear-weapons scientist Wen Ho Lee was expected to sue the FBI and the Justice and Energy departments, alleging they violated his privacy and wrongly portrayed him as a spy for China. Associates familiar with the lawsuit, to be filed in Washington, said it would claim the agencies violated the Privacy Act by making unauthorized disclosures of private information about Lee - and by using false or unsubstantiated data to suggest he's a spy. Lee was indicted Dec. 10 on charges he improperly removed nuclear secrets from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Cuban detainees who surrendered peacefully after holding hostages at a jail in Louisiana for nearly a week will be sent back to Cuba, the State Department said. An unusual deal with Havana left unresolved the cases of some 2,400 other Cubans waiting in US jails for deportation because the US has no diplomatic relations with Havana. The prisoners arrived in the US in 1980, during the boatlift in which Cuban President Castro sent thousands of Cuban criminals to Florida.

The shuttle Discovery was finally off on its mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. The shuttle - with seven astronauts aboard - was expected to catch up with the $3 billion telescope today; astronauts were to start making repairs tomorrow. Because of numerous delays, these will be the first shuttle astronauts to spend Christmas in orbit. Discovery is due back Dec. 27.

Bill Bradley dismissed as "ridiculous" a challenge from Vice President Gore that the two Democratic presidential candidates agree to halt all radio and TV advertising. The offer came during a TV debate on NBC.

A group of loggers filed a suit against the Forest Service and two ecology groups. The litigation claims the federal agency has embraced the groups' "deep ecology" philosophy - a view of the natural world as sacred that is tantamount to a religion, which means the Forest Service is unconstitutionally favoring or endorsing one religion over another. The loggers asked a federal judge in Minneapolis to stop St. Paul-based Superior Wilderness Action Network, the New Mexico-based Forest Guardians, and the Forest Service from limiting access to timber unless they prove they're acting for nonreligious reasons. The lawsuit also seeks $600,000 in damages to make up for lost business.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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