New Orleans officials began preliminary planning to evacuate in the event that tropical storm Gustav strengthens over the Gulf of Mexico and slams into the Gulf Coast as a major hurricane. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) declared a state of emergency Wednesday to lay the groundwork for federal assistance, and put 3,000 National Guard troops on standby. Hurricane Katrina, was a Category 3 storm when it struck the region on Aug. 29, 2005. If a similar storm approaches this time, the plan calls for transporting residents to safety via buses and trains. By Labor Day, Gustav could make landfall between Texas and Florida.

The way was cleared to extradite a British man to the US who allegedly hacked into secret US military computers shortly after the 9/11 attacks, as the result of decision by the European Court of Human Rights Thursday. The court refused to delay the extradition of Gary McKinnon.

The US intelligence community hires about 36,0000 private contractors, which make up more than one-quarter of its workforce, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times based on newly released government figures. The outsourcing since 9/11 has raised concerns that temporary employees might not be as trustworthy as career workers, the Times says.

The Tennessee Valley Authority asked regulators to renew nuclear construction permits for two unfinished reactors it virtually abandoned 20 years ago. The federal utility, which supplies electricity to 8.8 million consumers in seven Southern states, currently gets about 60 percent of its power from coal-fired power plants. But with coal costs rising, the TVA says nuclear fuel costs are "much more stable over the long term."

Energy generated by fitness buffs pedaling stationary bikes will be used produce up to 600 watts of energy an hour at the Green Microgym, which opens for business in Portland, Ore., Sept. 1, the Newhouse News Service reports. Eventually, the facility expects to run solely on the energy it generates.

Several thousands employees of Boeing Co. rallied during Wednesday's lunch hour at the airplanemaker's Everett, Wash., plant as negotiators continue to work out a new contract.

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