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As part of a two-day swing through Florida, President Bush talked up an economic record that has come under attack and courted voters, including "NASCAR dads" - the stock-car racing fans being wooed as "soccer moms" once were. He was on hand Sunday to start the Daytona 500, the sport's premier race. Bush missed the finish but called to congratulate winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. The latter's superstar father won the Daytona 500 six years ago to the day but then died in a last-lap crash at the event in 2001.

A witness got a look at the possible suspect in a series of 24 highway shootings in the Columbus, Ohio, area over the weekend. Joe Joan was able to describe the man who brazenly shot a passing SUV from an overpass, then drove slowly away. The suspect was described as a clean-shaven white male in his 30s with dark hair, driving a small black sedan. The bullet used matches those recovered in eight other shootings, dating back to last May, killing one motorist.

The Texas Rangers agreed to trade baseball's highest-paid star and American League Most Valuable Player, Alex Rodriguez, to the New York Yankees, in a blockbuster deal that, awaited the commissioner's OK as the Monitor went to press. The Rangers will pay $67 million of the $179 million left on Rod-riguez's 10-year contract, and receive infielder Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later in return. Boston appeared close to getting Rodriguez earlier this winter.

Actor-director Mel Gibson told ABC's "Primetime" that he wants his controversial film, "The Passion of the Christ," set to open in theaters Feb. 25, to be shocking and extreme in its depiction of the hours leading up to and including the crucifixion. For months, critics have expressed concern that the film could fuel anti-Semitic feelings.

Court hearings are expected Tuesday in California to examine the legality of San Francisco's facilitation of same-sex marriages. Critics are incensed that Mayor Gavin Newsom (D) last week ordered City Hall to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples even though state law recognizes only marriage between a man and woman. More than 1,000 licenses have been issued and vows administered to several hundred couples in City Hall itself.

An international team of astrophysicists reported seeing the most distant object yet detected from Earth, a tiny galaxy 13 billion light-years away. The sighting offers a glimpse of life in the universe 750 million years ago.


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