A New Jersey law passed late last year that allows gaycouplesto unite in civil unions, with the same legal protections as married couples, took effect Monday. Before then, they could register only as domestic partners. Activists say they'll continue to press for full marriage status. New Jersey joins Massachusetts and California in providing equal rights to same-sex couples.

Winds up to 70 m.p.h. hampered rescuers in Oregon Monday in their attempts to reach three climbers, huddled in sleeping bags, who fell from a ledge on snowy Mount Hood. The climbers, two women and a man, were in cellphone communication with rescuers.

On the presidential campaign trail in South Carolina, US Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona said Sunday that the Supreme Court's 1973 decision to legalize abortion should be overturned. McCain is trying to build support among conservative voters in South Carolina, which holds one of the early primaries.

Scientists and former astronauts want the UN to play a role in assessing and acting upon asteroid threats to Earth, they said in San Francisco during a weekend conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. At the same meeting, researchers said fishing operations that are moving further offshore threaten deep-ocean fish stocks, the least sustainable of all supplies.

In a weekend letter to parishioners, the Roman CatholicDiocese of San Diego said it is considering declaring bankruptcy to avoid going on trial to settle more than 140 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests.

What most motivates seniors 65 and older to walk regularly arenearby destinations, such as stores and restaurants, not parks and trails, according to a new academic study released Sunday. Safety is also a key consideration.

New Jersey, the first state to test high school athletes forsteroid use, had no positive results among tournament-bound athletes in its limited introduction, the Associated Press reported Sunday.

In a wild, wreck-filled finish to Sunday's Daytona 500 NASCARrace, Kevin Harvick edged Mark Martin by a hood length to win the season-opening event in Daytona Beach, Fla. The exciting finish, which had to be reviewed on tape to confirm the outcome, temporarily overshadowed a cheating scandal that penalized five teams before the race.

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