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WEST VIRGINIA: The Byrd succession

Gov. Joe Manchin said he'd consider running for the late Robert C. Byrd's U.S. Senate seat and asked Attorney General Darrell McGraw on Wednesday whether voters can choose a successor in November. Manchin requested an opinion on whether the governor can declare a special election for what remains of the term, and whether it can be set before 2012, when Byrd would have had to run again. Byrd was a Democrat, as is Manchin. But the state overwhelmingly went for Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential race, and a special election would put another Senate seat in play as Democrats struggle to retain their majority.

WASHINGTON: McCain's no vote for Kagan

Sen. John McCain says in an opinion article to be published in Thursday's USA Today that he plans to vote against confirming Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. The Arizona senator's decision makes him the latest in the GOP to oppose President Barack Obama's nominee to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. McCain says Kagan is unlikely to exercise judicial restraint, based on her decision as Harvard Law dean to bar military recruiters from the campus career services office.

FAA probing near crashes

Alarmed by a spate of near-collisions involving airliners, the government is trying to find out why air traffic controllers and pilots are making so many dangerous errors. In recent months, there have been a half-dozen incidents of airliners coming close to colliding with other planes or helicopters. Robert Tarter, vice president of Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Safety-Air Traffic Organization, kicked off the new safety effort in a conference call with employees.

NEW YORK: Israel: Tough talks ahead

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday he thinks direct talks with the Palestinians will begin very soon and he predicted they will be "very, very tough." A day after meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington, Netanyahu discussed efforts to promote Middle East peace and the continuing closure of Gaza with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Later, he met with representatives of Jewish organizations at the Plaza Hotel.

CALIFORNIA: Quake shakes Angelenos

A magnitude-5.4 earthquake jolted Southern California on Wednesday, rattling buildings in downtown Los Angeles and briefly halting rides at Disneyland. It was centered 28 miles south of Palm Springs, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

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