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News briefs for Aug. 28

Officials make plans to evacuate New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS – On the eve of Hurricane Katrina’s third anniversary, a nervous New Orleans watched Wednesday as another storm threatened to test everything the city has rebuilt, and officials made plans to evacuate people, pets and hospitals in an attempt to avoid a Katrina-style chaos.

Forecasters warned that Gustav could grow into a dangerous Category 3 hurricane in the next several days and hit somewhere along a swath of the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle to Texas – with New Orleans smack in the middle.

West warns Russia to ‘change course’

TBILISI, Georgia – Western leaders warned Russia on Wednesday to “change course,” hoping to keep a conflict that already threatens a key nuclear pact and could even raise U.S. chicken prices from blossoming into a new Cold War.

Moscow said it was NATO expansion and Western support for Georgia that was causing the new East-West divisions, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin lashed out at the United States for using military ships to deliver humanitarian aid to Georgia.

One-time insurgency stronghold to return to Iraqi control

WASHINGTON – Conditions in the western Iraqi province of Anbar, where a brutal insurgency once ruled, have improved so dramatically that the United States is handing over responsibility for security in the Sunni stronghold to Iraq within days. Troops freed up in Iraq could shift to Afghanistan.

A ceremony marking the Anbar turnover is expected to be held Monday, several U.S. and Iraqi officials said. Each spoke on condition of anonymity because the Iraqi government has not yet announced it. Anbar would be the 10th of Iraq’s 18 provinces to be returned to Iraqi government control, a step toward phasing out the American combat role as Iraqi security forces grow more competent.

Death sentence for man who kidnapped kids, murdered 1 of them after killing family

BOISE, Idaho – A longtime sex offender was sentenced to death Wednesday for the 2005 kidnapping, torture and murder of a 9-year-old northern Idaho boy after federal jurors who watched video of some of the brutality deliberated just three hours.

The jurors’ recommendation was binding on U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge, who thanked them, dismissed them and then sentenced Joseph Edward Duncan III.

– The Associated Press