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Despite lashing the Florida Panhandle and Alabama's coast with 120 m.p.h. winds Sunday, hurricane Dennis generally delivered a less punishing blow than was forecast. It also weakened rapidly after making landfall. By Monday, the storm was downgraded to a tropical depression as winds dropped to 35 m.p.h. As it runs its course, heavy rains and possible tornadoes were expected over central and northern Alabama, parts of Mississippi, and the western Tennessee Valley, according to the National Hurricane Center. Dennis produced little in the way of structural damage in a region hit hard last year by hurricane Ivan, but miles of coastal highway were flooded and more than 500,000 customers lost electricity.

The price of gasoline reached a record high $2.33 a gallon, industry analyst Trilby Lundberg reported. The figure, which beat the old mark (set in April) by one cent, is based on the national average for all grades of gasoline. The price, which reflects growing summer demand, is not adjusted for inflation.

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NASA began its first official shuttle flight countdown in 2-1/2 years Sunday in preparation for the scheduled launch of Discovery Wednesday at 3:51 p.m. EDT. The liftoff of the seven-member crew from Cape Canaveral, Fla., will be the first since the 2003 reentry disaster of Columbia, in which technical problems and poor management practices were blamed for the shuttle's disintegration and loss of seven astronauts.

Top White House adviser Karl Rove was among the secret sources involved in leaking the professional identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame, Newsweek magazine reported in its latest edition. Rove's lawyer confirmed that his client had shared the information about Plame with Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper. The leak has been the focus of a two-year investigation by a special prosecutor who is looking into whether it was linked to an attempt to discredit Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, who contradicted White House assertions about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Rove reportedly gave Cooper permission to identify him as a source so that Cooper could avoid a contempt-of-court jailing for withholding information.

Amtrak restarted its Acela service Monday with two of 18 high-speed trains outfitted with a new braking system. Acela operations were halted in April, when hairline cracks in the brakes were discovered. Other Acela trains will return to service as they're retrofitted.

More than 80 percent of Puerto Rican voters cast ballots Sunday in favor of creating a one-house legislature in an island-wide referendum. If the decision is upheld in a subsequent 2007 vote to amend its Constitution, Puerto Rico would join Nebraska, which is the only state with a unicameral legislature.

The annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be played Tuesday night in Detroit's Comerica Park. The Chicago White Sox have reached the midseason break leading the American League with a .663 winning percentage; the St. Louis Cardinals top the National League with a .636 mark. The league whose team wins the game will gain home-field advantage in the World Series.


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