USA

Wilma, the eighth hurricane to strike Florida in a little over 14 months, made landfall early Monday as a Category 3 storm, packing winds of 125 m.p.h. It came ashore around Cape Romano, near the Gulf Coast city of Naples and was expected to accelerate while crossing the state. About 400 miles across, Wilma simultaneously affected the heavily populated Miami- Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach corridor. Gov. Jeb Bush (R) asked that 14 of the state's counties be granted major-disaster status.

President Bush said he will not release records of confidential conversations with Harriet Miers, his Supreme Court nominee, about White House legal matters. In preparing for hearings on her nomination to the high court, the Senate Judiciary Committee has demanded documents that shed light on her work as Bush's counsel. The president called the release a "red line" he will not cross.

Bush nominated Ben Bernanke, chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, to succeed Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Greenspan plans to step down Jan. 31 after 18 years on the job. Bernanke served on the Fed's Board of Governors for almost three years. He has advocated steps toward greater policy transparency at the nation's central bank and is a long-time advocate of inflation targets.

Baseball's World Series makes its first appearance in Houston Tuesday night after the Chicago White Sox won the opening two games at home against the Astros. In a thrilling finish to Sunday night's second game, outfielder Scott Podsednik, who did not hit a home run during the regular season, smashed a solo shot in the bottom of the ninth inning to break a tie and give the White Sox a 7-6 win.

Over the past two weeks, gasoline prices have made their most dramatic drop in decades, according to the Lundberg survey of 6,000 filling stations. The national average for a gallon of unleaded, self-serve regular fell 25.3 cents to $2.66 (rounded off) as oil refining capacity rebounded from two Gulf Coast hurricanes and demand slowed.

Although the rate of growth of the US prison population tapered off last year, the number of inmates in federal, state, and local lockups rose 1.9 percent, the Justice Department reported. Overall, a world-high 2.3 million people are behind bars, and federal prisons are 40 percent over capacity, the report said.

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