USA

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (D) said dry sections of the city could be reopened as early as Monday if the Environmental Protection Agency determines the air is safe to breathe. Meanwhile, Entergy Corp. said it has restored power to 75 percent of its 1.1 million customers who lost electricity during hurricane Katrina Aug. 29. In other storm-related developments:

• The husband-and-wife owners of a New Orleans nursing home were charged with homicide for alleged negligence in the deaths of 34 patients. The fatalities brought the casualty count in Louisiana to 423 and to 659 overall for the states hit by the storm.

• US Rep. William Jefferson (D) of Louisiana used National Guard personnel and one of their heavy trucks to check on his New Orleans home and retrieve personal belongings while other residents were still awaiting rescue, ABC News reported.

• The FBI warned that 60 percent of the 2,100 websites accepting donations for storm relief efforts are foreign and probably bogus.

Despite the disastrous storm, industrial production across the US rose last month, although by only 0.1 percent, the Federal Reserve reported. It estimated the figure would have been 0.4 percent but for a drop in crude oil and chemical production because of Katrina. Retail sales, however, fell 2.1 percent, their steepest decline in almost four years. The plunge was led by the automotive sector, which experienced a falloff of 12 percent.

In day three of his confirmation hearings, Chief Justice-nominee John Roberts Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Congress has the right to counter Supreme Court rulings in protecting individual rights. In particular, he cited the divisive decision earlier this year that gives local governments the power to take private property by eminent domain in favor of development that would generate higher tax revenues.

An official warning that Al Qaeda terrorists could try to "hijack a commercial jet and slam it into a US landmark" came even earlier than previously thought, The New York Times reported. Citing previously secret portions of the findings by the 9/11 commission, it said the Federal Aviation Administration was warned by its own intelligence agents in 1998 and 1999 of the hijacking threat posed by Al Qaeda. Repeated security lapses at two of the airports used in the hijackings - Boston and Washington's Dulles International - also had been identified months before that day, the report said.

The most distant cosmic explosion yet seen - 12.8 billion light years from Earth - was recorded by University of Hawaii astronomers. The burst, probably caused by the collapse of a massive dying star, occurred at the edge of the known universe, according to the scientists, who said it released about as much energy as the sun will emit during its 10 billion-year life span.

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