USA

At least 13 people were reported dead as raging wildfires wreaked havoc in southern California. Fueled by high winds and tinder-dry vegetation, the blazes have consumed 200,000 acres and destroyed more than 825 homes, blanketed skies with smoke, and grounded or delayed air travel in the region. Monday night's professional football game between the San Diego Chargers and the Miami Dolphins was moved to Arizona due to safety concerns.

Progress in the US-led rebuilding of Iraq is making insurgents there "more desperate," President Bush asserted following two days of sharply increased violence in Baghdad. Bush spoke after a White House meeting with US administrator for Iraq Paul Bremer, and again repeated his intention to "stay the course" to create a peaceful Iraq, a goal that he said is in the US national interest.

The nine Democratic presidential hopefuls took turns criticizing Bush's handling of Iraq and the economy, as well as challenging each other at the fifth in their series of debates Sunday night. Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut accused some rivals of flip-flopping on the war and reconstruction funding, while Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and ex-Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont sparred over how much of Bush's tax cuts to repeal. Dean favors a complete reversal. The televised forum at Detroit's Fox Theater came less than three months before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.

No changes to interest rates are expected as Federal Reserve policymakers meet Tuesday to evaluate the economy. While there are signs of steady improvement, economists said the central bank probably will indicate it has no plans for a rate hike anytime soon to ward off inflation. "The Fed doesn't want to do anything dramatic that would shock the markets," said Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at Wells Fargo in Minneapolis.

New Jersey officials investigating the alleged starvation of four boys by their adoptive parents were trying to determine why a caseworker failed to report the situation despite dozens of visits. One of the boys, whose ages range from 9 to 19, remains hospitalized while the rest have been placed in foster care. The parents are being held on charges of aggravated assault and endangerment.

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