Hurricance Ivan slammed ashore early Thursday in Gulf Shores, Ala., with winds of 130 m.p.h., but weakened as it moved inland. Still, communities from the Florida Panhandle to Louisiana braced for continuing impacts, including up to 15 inches of rain and winds that forecasters said could blast the Gulf Coast for 20 hours. At least two people were killed as the result of tornadoes that developed at Ivan's edge, and several hundred thousand homes and businesses were without power in Alabama and western Florida. Ivan spared New Orleans from a direct hit. Meanwhile, along Florida's east coast, residents kept a close eye on the approach of tropical storm Jeanne, which reached hurricane strength over the Dominican Republic.

A highly classified National Intelligence Estimate prepared for President Bush offered a pessimistic assessment about the future security and stability of Iraq through next year, according to an unnamed federal official cited by the Associated Press Wednesday. At worst, the official said, trend lines "point to a civil war" between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. During a campaign appearance, Demo-cratic presidential nominee John Kerry accused the president of misleading Americans about the spiraling crisis in Iraq. A Bush campaign spokesman countered that Kerry "has descended into complete incoherence" on Iraq.

CBS News and anchor Dan Rather responded to a mounting wave of doubt about documents, cited on a "60 Minutes II" program, that purport to prove lapses in Bush's Air National Guard service. While acknowledging late Wednesday that there were legitmate concerns about the authenticity of some typed documents from the 1970s, CBS said it stands behind "the content" of its story.

The National Hockey League decided to lock out its players, beginning Thursday, as a deep rift between their union and management over a new contract threatens to wipe out the entire 2004-05 season. Thirty teams - 24 in the US and six in Canada - were set to start training camps as the current labor contract expired.

Eager to put a personal and professional "nightmare" behind her, style maven Martha Stewart asked a federal court Wednesday to let her begin serving a five-month prison sentence "as soon as possible." At a news conference, Stewart said she didn't want to wait to see if an appeals court would overturn her conviction in a stock-trading scandal.

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