Secretary of State Powell blamed the Sudanese government and Arab militias for genocide in the Darfur region, where tens of thousands of non-Arab Muslim tribe members have been killed by Janjaweed militiamen. "Call it civil war, call it ethnic cleansing, call it genocide ... the reality is the same: There are people in Darfur who desperately need the help of the international community," Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He called on the Khartoum government to stop the violence and "act responsibly," but said neither the US nor the European Union is prepared to intervene militarily. Powell's conclusions were based on interviews with more than 1,000 of an estimated 1.2 million refugees from the violence.

A 10-year ban on military-style assault weapons is due to expire Monday in the absence of congressional reauthorization. "I think the will of the American people is consistent with letting it expire, so it will expire," Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R) of Tennessee said Wednesday. At the same time, however, several major-city police chiefs held a news conference at which they predicted violent gun crimes will increase if the ban is not renewed. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R) said he'd consider allowing a vote on reauthorization only if the Senate acted first.

The White House released memos Wednesday from the files of a deceased Texas Air National Guard commander indicating that President Bush was suspended in the early 1970s from flying jet fighters for failing to meet its standards.

NASA's Genesis capsule, which carried billions of microscopic solar wind particles collected on a three-year $260 million mission, crashed in Utah's salt flats Wednesday at 193 m.p.h after its parchutes failed to deploy. The impact broke open the capsule, exposing the atoms to contamination. But officials said they'll try to salvage the "science" on board.

The commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks said Wednesday much more needs to be done to protect trucking, shipping, and other nonaviation modes of transportation that "have significant vulnerabilities." In an addendum to its major report, the panel recommended that the Transportation Security Administration and the Homeland Security Department produce a plan by Feb. 1 to protect passengers, equipment, and facilities.

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