USA

Industrial production by factories, mines, and utilities jumped by 0.8 percent in June, twice the rate of growth analysts had predicted, the Federal Reserve reported Monday. In May, factory output rose only 0.1 percent. Economists believe manufacturing will slow along with overall economic growth in the coming months as consumers struggle with soaring gasoline prices, rising interest rates, and a cooling of home sales.

State Department and Defense officials said they're preparing a strategy for evacuating Americans who choose to leave Lebanon, according to The Washington Post. With violence between Hizbullah and Israel rising, the US government urged the roughly 8,000 Americans living or traveling in Lebanon to register with the State Department, in case they elect to leave via a possible airlift.

At the Southern Governors Conference in New Orleans, a top official in the Federal Emergency Management Agency said operations have been greatly improved since last year's hurricane season, citing less red tape, better shelter readiness, and improved transportation for evacuees. Coast Guard Vice Adm. Harvey Johnson, FEMA's deputy director, also said that displaced people probably wouldn't receive a $2,000 federal aid handout as happened after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The hurricane season began June 1 and runs through November.

Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP, opened the organization's 97th annual convention Sunday, saying the meeting was brought to Washington in hopes of persuading President Bush to attend. Bond has invited Bush to six conventions, but the president, whose administration has been criticized heavily by the NAACP, has yet to accept. Bush's Wednesday schedule, however, has an opening that could be used to address the group.

Firefighters who've battled blazes on more than 100 square miles of California's Yucca Valley braced Monday for possible new wildfires after forecasts called for possible thunderstorms and lightning. Flash flooding, the National Weather Service said, could occur later in the week. Fires east of Los Angeles have destroyed 58 homes. Other states fighting wildfires are Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, and Minnesota.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R) of Massachusetts said Sunday it could take "at least a couple of months, and perhaps longer" to repair ceiling problems in Boston's underground highway system. Closures of various tunnel sections, built as part of the $14.6 billion Big Dig project, are expected to have a major impact on traffic. Romney said it appears a "systemic" problem exists with the bolts used to secure heavy concrete ceiling panels, some of which fell and killed a car passenger last week.

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