USA

A diminished but still powerful hurricane Lili came ashore near New Iberia, La., as almost a half-million residents of that state and Texas were warned to evacuate. With winds of 100 m.p.h., Lili was downgraded to a Category 2 storm. Tornadoes, heavy rains, and flooding also were a concern.

Shoe-bomb suspect Richard Reid is expected to plead guilty to attempted murder, explosives, and all other charges against him at a hearing Friday in federal court in Boston. Through his lawyers, the British national said he wanted to spare his family the publicity of a trial, which had been set for Nov. 4. Reid also asked the court to drop allegations that he was trained by Al Qaeda terrorists, a request Attorney General Ashcroft opposed. Reid was taken into custody after allegedly trying to set off explosives in his sneakers during a Paris-to-Miami flight last December. The aircraft was diverted to Boston.

GOP candidate for Senate Douglas Forrester will appeal to the US Supreme Court a unanimous decision by New Jersey's top court to let Democrats substitute ex-Sen. Frank Lautenberg as their candidate after the state's legal deadline, Republican Party lawyers said. The race is one of several being hotly contested in the Nov. 5 midterm elections as both parties vie for control of the House and Senate.

In a larger increase than analysts had expected, new claims for jobless benefits rose last week by a seasonally adjusted 5,000 to 417,000, the Labor Department said. In another report, the Commerce Department said factory orders remained unchanged in August. Economists had anticipated a slight decrease.

The labor dispute that shut down 29 West Coast ports six days ago was taking a toll on other businesses. An auto assembly plant in Fremont, Calif., suspended production Thursday after it ran out of parts, and retailers and transport companies were stepping up calls for President Bush to intervene. Unions representing locked-out dock workers were scheduled to attend federally mediated talks with shipping company employers Thursday, after walking out the day before.

The US economy "is in big trouble" and Bush is "racing in the wrong direction" to address it, ex-Vice President Gore said Wednesday. His speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington was the second in a week sharply criticizing the Bush administration, as he considers whether to make another bid for the White House in 2004.

Saying New York should be the city that never sleeps "by choice, and not by compulsion," Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) announced a crackdown on excessive noise. Operation Silent Night is to go into effect Friday night, with police targeting nightclubs, cars, portable stereos, and other high-volume sources.

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