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Mid-Atlantic states were bracing as the region's most powerful storm in four years closed in. Some 100,000 people were ordered to leave North Carolina's Outer Banks, where hurricane Isabel is expected to make landfall Thursday and then track north through Virginia. The governors of both states, plus Maryland, declared emergencies, and Delaware's governor was considering a similar move. There are concerns of widespread flooding from Isabel's anticipated 6-to-10 inches of rainfall and 11-foot storm surge.

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark joined the crowded race for next year's Democratic presidential nomination. "I will be in," Clark told NBC-TV's "Today" show, hours before a planned formal announcement in his hometown, Little Rock, Ark. The former supreme commander of NATO and outspoken critic of the war in Iraq has never held elective office. But he said he has the right skills for "this very important time in American history."

Three former Merrill Lynch & Co. executives accused of helping Enron to inflate earnings will be charged with fraud in federal court in Houston, reports said. Daniel Bayly, Robert Furst, and a third, unidentified individual allegedly booked a short-term investment by the brokerage as profit from the sale of Nigerian barges, one of numerous schemes allegedly used by Enron to deceive investors before its record 2001 bankruptcy.

In a separate action, a former Bank of America broker was charged with grand larceny and securities law violations in New York Tuesday. Theodore Sihpol is the first person to face criminal charges as a result of state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's investigation into allegedly illegal mutual-fund trading.

With most votes counted, Seattle residents rejected a proposed tax on espresso and other pricey caffeinated beverages by an overwhelming 69 percent Tuesday. The 10-cent- a-drink tax would have funded preschool and day-care programs in the city, home to the Starbucks coffeeshop chain.

The Detroit Shock won the Women's National Basketball Association championship Tuesday night, outscoring the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Sparks 83-78 in Game Three of the finals in Auburn Hills, Mich. The victory was a major turnaround for the Shock, which last year had the worst record in the pro league.

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