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About 27,000 union machinists, mostly at Boeing Co. plants in the Puget Sound area, began picketing over the weekend after a 48-hour contract extension failed to resolve a dispute over pay, outsourcing, retirement benefits, healthcare provisions, and other issues. The company said it would not try to assemble planes during the strike.

The Democratic Party has posted big gains in voter registration since the last federal election in 2006, adding 2 million Democrats to voter rolls in the 28 states that register voters, the Associated Press reports. During the same period, Republicans lost nearly 344,000 voters.

The probe of Gov. Sarah Palin's dismissal of her public safety commissioner has been politicized, state Rep. John Coghill (R) said in a letter sent to the Alaska Legislature's Legislative Council. Coghill claims that another state lawmaker, Hollis French, a Democrat who oversees the Palin investigation, should be replaced because of remarks French made about an "October surprise" that presumably might damage Palin's election as John McCain's vice-presidential choice.

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An Earth-imaging satellite capable of taking supersharp pictures from space was launched into orbit Saturday from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems says its GeoEye-1 satellite can distinguish objects on the Earth's surface as small as 16 inches, technology helpful in environmental mapping, agriculture, and defense.

If he's elected president, GOP candidate John McCain pledged to appoint Democrats to his cabinet during an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation." Although he said he didn't know how many Democrats might be named, he indicated that he wouldn't stop at one.

Forty of the 69 surviving crew members of the USS Pueblo, who were captured and imprisoned by North Korea for 11 months in 1968, will begin a four-day reunion Wednesday in Essex, Vt., partly focused on US-Korean relations. "I think the crew has always wanted someone in the Navy to stand up and say, 'Hey, you guys did a great job in a poorly conceived mission without any backup,' " said Skip Schumacher, a young officer on the ship. The boat remains docked in North Korea as a symbol of resistance to the US military, which contends the Pueblo was in international waters when the incident occurred.

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