USA

Tropical storm Rita strengthened into a hurricane and was battering the Florida Keys on a course that seemed likely to take it on over the Gulf of Mexico and, ultimately, the coast of Texas. Its sustained winds as it made landfall at Key West were measured at 121 m.p.h. Meanwhile, in Galveston, Texas, which absorbed one of the nation's most devastating hurricanes 105 years ago this month, city officials called for voluntary evacuations. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) ordered all of the state's emergency personnel still helping with hurricane Katrina recovery efforts to prepare for Rita, among them more than 1,000 members of the National Guard.

In New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin (D) suspended his plan to bring back as much as one- third of the population over the next week, and state officials recommended a mandatory evacuation for city residents who'd returned after the post-hurricane Katrina flooding. President Bush was scheduled to make a fifth trip to the region to check on hurricane recovery efforts there and in Gulfport, Miss.

Reflecting concerns that Rita could strike Texas or other refinery-dotted areas of the Gulf Coast later in the week, crude-oil futures soared more than $4 Monday - their biggest one-day price jump to date. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, the price per barrel for October delivery settled at $67.39. Texas, which was spared hurricane Katrina's wrath, is the nation's biggest oil refiner.

Jury selection began Tuesday in the racketeering trial of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan (R). Opening arguments in the 20-count case may begin by Thursday. Ryan's administration is accused of doling out major state contracts and leases to political insiders. Ryan also attracted national attention by commuting the sentences of all 167 inmates on the state's death row before he left office in 2003.

Because they were convicted in state court of looting hundreds of millions of dollars from Tyco International Ltd., former chief executive Dennis Kozlowski and ex-finance officer Mark Swartz will be sent to one of New York's state prisons, rather than a minimum-security federal facility, reports said. Each was handed an 8- to 25-year sentence Monday. The defendants also were ordered to pay Tyco $134 million in restitution and $105 million in fines - $70 million by Kozlowski.

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