The US economy outperformed forecasters' expectations in the third quarter, expanding at a 4 percent pace, the Commerce Department reported. Economists had predicted 3.9 percent growth. The department said gross domestic product, or the combined value of goods and services, grew in part because of a smaller-than-expected increase in imports for the July-September period: 4.6 percent, as opposed to the 6 percent growth it had estimated. The GDP now has expanded by 3 percent or better for six straight quarters, the Commerce Department said, and appears poised to continue growing.

Residents of Washington State gathered around TV sets for live coverage of a special Supreme Court hearing on the validity of hundreds of disputed ballots from the tight Nov. 2 gubernatorial race. But Democratic Party officials already were proclaiming that a new recount of ballots from King County would reverse earlier findings and give their candidate, Attorney General Christine Gregoire, victory by eight votes. The original tally showed Dino Rossi (R) won by 261 votes; a mandatory machine recount lowered that margin to 42. GOP leaders said they'd "reserve all options" if a second recount, by hand, overturned Rossi's victory. King County is a Democratic stronghold.

President Bush called for a new investigation into allegations that abuse of detained terrorist suspects by military personnel has been more widespread than previously thought, The Washington Post reported. On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union released hundreds of pages of Army records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act that describe alleged executions or physical assaults of prisoners in Iraq, theft of their cash or private property, and shackling without food or water. The documents implicate both regular and Special Forces soldiers, the Post reported.

Confirming a published report, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it will hire 12,500 new air traffic controllers and extend the service of others already on the job if they wish to stay beyond mandatory retirement age. The FAA said the move is necessary to offset "a great wave" of looming retirements at a time when more people than ever before are traveling by air.

Two Coast Guard cutters were searching hundreds of square miles of the Atlantic Ocean off Nantucket, Mass., for the remainder of a fishing boat crew that sank Monday on a final pre-Christmas scalloping trip. One of the six men aboard was rescued Tuesday in good condition despite spending about 30 minutes in 46-degree F. water.

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