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The House of Representatives passed a new homeland security bill that will merge workers from 22 separate federal agencies, including the Border Patrol and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, into one huge department. Opposition came mostly from Democrats, with 114 of them, six Republicans, and one independent voting no on the measure. Voting in favor were 212 Republicans and 87 Democrats. The bill is also expected to pass in the Senate early next week.

President Bush will suspend oil assistance to North Korea in response to its nuclear weapons program, administration sources said. Bush was expected to meet with allied governments Thursday to discuss North Korea's situation after it admitted breaking a 1994 deal with the US to not develop nuclear weapons in exchange for the oil and other concessions.

Hospitals in four major cities were warned by the FBI that they may be targets of terrorist attacks as soon as the year-end holiday season. The FBI said Wednesday that unverified overseas information prompted warnings to Houston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington hospitals. However, the White House rated the credibility of the threats as "very low."

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Authorities also worried about possible terrorist retaliation for the execution of a Pakistani convicted of the 1993 shooting deaths of two CIA employees. Aimal Khan Kasi was scheduled to be executed Thursday night at a penitentiary in Virginia. Authorities increased patrols at the Virginia Supreme Court and other locations, although conceding that no explicit threats had been made. American citizens in Pakistan - where multiple protests against Kasi's execution were under way - were advised to exercise maximum caution, however.

Boston was wasting no time in preparing to play host to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The city pledged $20 million in private funds in order to attract the gathering, securing two $1 million commitments from Gillette Co. and Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Massachusetts, and $8 million from other area businesses.

Six white defendants were sentenced to up to three years in prison for the death of a black woman during a 1969 race riot in York, Pa. Relatives of victim Lillie Belle Allen called the short prison terms "a slap in the face."

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