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A Coast Guard rescue helicopter ferrying crew members from a stranded freighter crashed off Alaska's Aleutian Islands, leaving six people missing in rough and frigid Bering Sea waters. The ship they left behind, the Malaysia-flagged Selendang Ayu, ran aground and split apart. It had been adrift since Tuesday, clinging to its one remaining anchor while weathering 25-foot swells and 30-knot winds. The Coast Guard, which managed to evacuate 18 of 26 crew members, was responding to a possible fuel spill near a sensitive wildlife habitat.

By an 89-to-2 vote, the Senate on Wednesday approved the biggest overhaul of US intelligence agencies in more than 50 years just hours before the 108th Congress adjourned. The bill incorporates the main recommendations of the special 9/11 commission, including centralizing intelligence functions under a single director. It also creates a national counterterrorism center.

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Despite published reports that he'd be replaced, Treasury Secretary John Snow accepted President Bush's offer Wednesday to remain in the Cabinet. Meanwhile, decorated Vietnam War veteran Anthony Principi resigned as secretary of Veteran Affairs, becoming the ninth of 15 secretaries to step down.

A plan developed by the American Bar Association for improving jury participation and service was scheduled for release as the Monitor went to press. The proposal urges states to adopt rules to keep jury selection open while keeping personal information private. Courts would be ordered to withhold jurors' addresses and phone numbers unless there is a compelling reason to make them public.

An unidentified gunman was killed by police Wednesday night in a Columbus, Ohio, nightclub after he charged the stage, shooting during a performance by the heavy metal band Damageplan. At least four other people died in the attack.

A recount by hand of 2.9 million votes began Wednesday in the closest gubernatorial race in Washington State history. A machine recount found Republican Dino Rossi to be the winner by 42 votes over Democrat Christine Gregoire. The hand recount is the final tally allowed by state law. On Monday, the state Supreme Court is scheduled to examine a motion by the state Democratic Party to reconsider ballots that were previously invalidated.


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