Senate Democrats sparked partisan anger Tuesday when, to dramatize differing views of the administration's handling of pre-Iraq war intelligence, they invoked a rarely used procedural rule that dates to 1795. Republicans labeled the call for a secret session a political stunt. Behind closed doors, Democrats sought assurances that the second phase of an investigation of such intelligence was proceeding with all due speed. Last year, the Intelligence Committee produced a report on the first phase of its probe of flaws in intelligence, and a second-phase report may be ready next week, said Pat Roberts (R) of Kansas, the committee chairman. Still, lawmakers agreed to create a bipartisan task force to check on the committee's progress.

The CIA operates a covert overseas prison system that uses facilities scattered around Eastern Europe, The Washington Post reported. Citing US and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement, the Post said the compounds are used to hold and interrogate Al Qaeda captives in the sort of isolation that is illegal in the US. The CIA hasn't acknowledged the existence of such a network.

Seeking to restore budget cuts to education, healthcare, and transportation, Colorado voters passed a referendum question Tuesday to suspend the state's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, the strictest government spending cap in the US. Gov. Bill Owens (R) stunned members of his own party by joining those who favor giving up more than $3 billion in tax refunds.

A presidential panel charged with studying tax reform called Tuesday for eliminating virtually every deduction and credit and replacing them with simpler benefits for more taxpayers. Treasury Secretary John Snow said he would review the "bold" proposals and make formal recommendations to the president later this year.

About 1,500 union machinists at Boeing's Delta rocket plant in Huntington Beach, Calif., went on strike Wednesday over a federal mediator's failure to broker an agreement with their union over pay and benefits grievances. The strike could affect satellite launches in California and Florida.

A Pew Hispanic Center report released Tuesday says Hispanic teenagers are much more likely than other racial and ethnic groups to attend schools of extreme size and poverty. Fifty-six percent are enrolled at schools with 1,800 students, compared to 32 percent of blacks and 26 percent of whites.

The Postal Rate Commission approved a two-cent hike for first-class stamps, to 39 cents. It is to take effect early next year.

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