USA

Bracing for what he said was possibly a "once in a lifetime event," New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (D) ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city Sunday in advance of hurricane Katrina, which was expected to lash the Gulf Coast beginning this morning. The storm, which was blamed for seven deaths as it crossed south Florida, gained in ferocity as it reached the gulf and headed for a stretch between Morgan City, La., and the Alabama-Florida line, with winds of 175 m.p.h. To deal with the threat of a massive storm surge associated with a Category 5 hurricane, New Orleans set up 10 refuges as a last resort, among them the Superdome, for those unable to get out of the city, which is mostly below sea level and relies on levees to prevent flooding.

Several thousand people gathered Saturday for opposing rallies near President Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch. One group, led by Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq who has pressed for a second meeting with the president, called for withdrawing US troops and ending the war. Meanwhile, parents of other soldiers who are serving or have died in Iraq countered the Sheehan camp, accusing her of "giving hope and encouragement to our enemies." In his weekly radio address, Bush said US efforts would require "more sacrifice and continued resolve."

The independent Base Realignment and Closure Commission completed its review Saturday, but not without rankling governors and legislators in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Massachusetts, and Illinois, where approval of plans to remove planes from Air National Guard bases could jeopardize their operation. Commission chairman Anthony Principi said any disputes were now in the hands of the Justice Department.

Although not accused of wrongdoing, Mayor Richard Daley (D) of Chicago submitted to questioning Friday by federal authorities in an 18-month corruption investigation. Daley was asked about the city's hiring and promotion practices and alleged bribes given in return for trucking jobs.

More than 1,700 firefighters who battled a 2,300-acre wildfire over the weekend near Manton, Calif., expected to have the blaze fully contained this morning, according to officials. The cause of fire, which began Friday and spread rapidly until winds died down, remained unknown.

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