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The Associated Press
People attempt to pull a truck out of  the rain-swollen Santiago Creek near Modjeska Canyon, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. (AP Photo/Orange County Register, Mark Rightmire)  NO SALES; MAGS OUT; LOS ANGELES TIMES OUT
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People attempt to pull a truck out of the rain-swollen Santiago Creek near Modjeska Canyon, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010.

A rain-soaked hillside has collapsed on part of a busy Interstate 10 transition road east of Los Angeles as relentless rains begin to torment Southern California commuters. Some coastal cities have received several inches of rain since Friday, and forecasters have issued ominous warnings that another drenching squall is poised to strike Wednesday morning.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fulfilling a campaign pledge, cheering his party's downcast liberals and striking a blow for what he sees as basic human rights, President Barack Obama is signing a landmark law Wednesday that tells America's armed services to let homosexuals serve openly for the first time. So many gay rights and Democratic activists were expected at the signing ceremony that the White House booked a large auditorium at the Interior Department.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate is poised to approve a nuclear arms pact with Russia, handing President Barack Obama a huge victory on his top foreign policy priority. Passage of the New START treaty appeared assured after 11 Republicans joined Democrats in a vote Tuesday to end debate on the pact. That signaled that Obama should have the two-thirds majority he needs when the Senate votes on final approval Wednesday.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea vowed Wednesday to "completely punish" North Korea if it attacks again, and mobilized hundreds of troops, tanks and helicopters for a massive military exercise prompted by high tensions on the peninsula. The firing drills planned for Thursday near the Koreas' heavily armed land border signaled that South Korea is willing to risk further escalating tensions with North Korea, which shelled a southern island off the western coast on Nov. 23 and stirred up a war-like atmosphere.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The economy grew at a moderate pace last summer, reflecting stronger spending by businesses to replenish stockpiles. More recent barometers suggest the economy is gaining momentum in the final months of the year. The government says gross domestic product increased at a 2.6 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter. That's up from the 2.5 percent pace estimated a month ago. While businesses spent more to build inventories, consumers ended up spending a bit less.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A surge of Hispanic residents and other population gains have Texas poised to add more congressional clout than any other state, but a partisan fight now looms over exactly where the new seats should go. Texas is gaining four seats in the U.S. House, twice as many as Florida, the only other state to pick up multiple ones, according to new population figures announced Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. All told, Republican-leaning states will pick up at least a half dozen House seats thanks to the 2010 census, which found the nation's population growing more slowly than in past decades but still shifting to the South and West.

LONDON (AP) — Europe's Christmas travel crisis eased slightly Wednesday but there were still substantial airport and train delays, particularly at London's Heathrow Airport, where crews were still struggling to remove ice. About 70 percent of Heathrow's planned departures were expected to operate Wednesday — some 900 flights. Extra crews were working to remove ice buildup and clear the airfield of snow.

JINAN, China (AP) — Service with a smile also comes with an electronic voice at the Dalu Robot restaurant, where the hotpot meals are not as famous yet as the staff who never lose their patience and never take tips. The restaurant, which opened this month in Jinan in northern Shandong province, is touted as China's first robot hotpot eatery where robots resembling Star Wars droids circle the room carrying trays of food in a conveyor belt-like system.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A day that began with authorities confirming Lindsay Lohan was being investigated for battery on a female staffer at a California rehab facility treating the starlet ended with the worker fired after giving an interview about the incident. Riverside County sheriff's detectives said Tuesday they are investigating the "Mean Girls" star for an alleged altercation with a worker at a Betty Ford Center facility in Palm Desert that occurred after 1 a.m. on Dec. 12.

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — No. 89 came and went as effortlessly as nearly all their previous games. This season. Last season. And the season before. UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma, never at a loss for words, was close Tuesday night.