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Wednesday, December 7

Editor's Note: CNN News Update is a running log of the latest news from CNN World Headquarters, reported by CNN's correspondents, producers and Wires.CNN editors.

Epsilon weakens rapidly, expected to dissipate

MIAMI (CNN) -- Epsilon, the record 26th named Atlantic storm of the 2005 season, was weakening rapidly Thursday after its maximum sustained winds diminished to tropical storm strength, forecasters with the National Hurricane Center said.

"Continued weakening is forecast, and Epsilon is expected to degenerate into a remnant low pressure system later today," the NHC said at 4 a.m. Thursday.

"The remnants of Epsilon are expected to be absorbed by a cold front by Friday." Epsilon, which became a Category 1 hurricane but never posed a threat to land, was located about 1,050 miles southwest of the Azores early Thursday. (posted 4:35 a.m.)

U.S. soldier killed, 3 wounded in roadside bomb

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A U.S. soldier was killed and three others wounded Thursday when a roadside bomb struck their patrol, a U.S. military spokesman told CNN.

The bombing occurred in eastern Baghdad. One Humvee was damaged in the attack, the spokesman said.

Since the start of the war, 2,132 U.S. troops have died in Iraq. (posted 4:15 a.m.)

16 killed, 25 wounded in suicide bombing

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A suicide bomber detonated inside a passenger bus in southern Baghdad on Thursday, killing 16 passengers and wounding 25, Iraqi police said.

The 44-passenger bus was departing from the al-Nahtha terminal close to the Kindi hospital and was headed to Nasiriya when the explosion occurred about 11 a.m. (3 a.m. ET), police said.

The bus was packed with passengers traveling home for the weekend, authorities said.

Officials have warned such attacks might increase as Iraq's Dec. 15 parliamentary elections draw closer.

Explosion in northwestern Pakistan kills at least 8 people

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- At least eight people were killed and more than a dozen others injured in a blast that ripped through a weapons shop in northwestern Pakistan Thursday, government officials said.

The explosion took place in the town of Tank, near the Afghan border

A local official told CNN the blast was not a terrorist act. (posted 2:40 a.m.)

Japan extends troop deployment in Iraq for another year

TOKYO (CNN) -- Japan's Cabinet on Thursday extended the military deployment of troops in Iraq for a year, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said.

The deployment of 500 troops previously was set to expire this month.

"Today, the Japanese government has decided to extend the dispatch of SDF (Self-Defense Forces) by one year for the humanitarian and reconstruction support of Iraq," Koizumi said in a news conference.

"The activities of the SDF were highly valued by the people and government of Iraq," he said. "I met the Iraqi prime minister Monday and he directly requested the extension to me with highest regards to their activities." (posted 3:25 a.m.)

5 killed in Bangladesh blast; militants suspected

(CNN) -- Five people were killed and 20 others injured Thursday in a suicide bombing in the central Bangladeshi town of Netrokona, officials said.

The dead included two police officers, two civilians and the bomber, Dhaka police said. The blast occurred in front of Udichi, a cultural organization, between 10 and 11 a.m.

Netrokona is located northeast of the capital, Dhaka.

Last week, three blasts in two towns killed 14 people. Authorities believe all the incidents, including Thursday's, are linked to the banned Islamic militant group Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB) -- a group, police say, has a suicide squad of 2,000 members. --Journalist Tasneem Khalil contributed to this report. (Updated 2:15 a.m.)

Mine blast in China kills at least 74 workers

(CNN) -- At least 74 workers were killed and 32 were missing after an explosion at a coal mine in northern China's Hebei Province Thursday, according to the official China news service Xinhua.

It is the third deadly mining accident in China in less than a month. Rescuers found the remains of 71 miners and brought 32 others to the surface alive as of 11 a.m. Thursday, but three of those died in a hospital, an official told Xinhua.

There were 188 miners underground when Wednesday's blast occurred in the Liuguantun Colliery in Tangshan City, the news service said. No cause for the blast was announced. The mine's management said 82 miners made it out safely after the blast, and 104 others were trapped underground. Investigators, however, found the actual number was two more than that, Xinhua said.

More than 150 rescuers were trying to reduce the density of gas in the mine as they searched for the missing miners. (Updated 12:27 a.m.)

Army meets November active duty recruiting goal, officials say

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Army met its recruiting goal for the active duty force in November, Army officials told CNN. The exact numbers have not yet been released. It's the second month in the new recruiting year, which began October 1, in which the active force met its goals. The last time the active duty forces missed its goal was in June. In the recruiting year that ended in September the Army missed its goal by 6,000 recruits as it attempted to expand the size of the force by 30,000 troops, increasing the number of combat brigades from 33 to 43. Army officials told CNN they are worried they might not be able to meet their ambitious goal of adding 10 more brigades, and proposals are being discussed to scale back the plan to add only nine in 2006. --From CNN Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre (Posted 6:40 p.m.)

Federal air marshal fatally shoots man after alleged bomb threat

MIAMI (CNN) -- A 44-year-old American who allegedly claimed he had a bomb aboard an American Airlines flight at Miami International Airport was shot and killed Wednesday by a federal air marshal in the jetway just outside the plane after he refused to obey commands, authorities said.

The man who was killed was identified as Rigoberto Alpizar, a U.S. citizen, according to Federal Air Marshals spokesman Dave Adams.

He was not carrying an explosive, said James Bauer, director of the Federal Air Marshal field office in Miami.

The incident began after Alpizar, who had arrived on a flight from Ecuador and had passed through customs, boarded American Airlines Flight 924 to fly to Orlando, Fla. Alpizar announced he had a bomb in his carry-on luggage and was confronted by federal air marshals who asked him to get off the plane, Adams said.

Alpizar fled the plane with an air marshals team in pursuit. The air marshals told him to put his bag down in the jetway -- the walkway between the plane and the terminal -- but he refused and approached the air marshals in an aggressive manner, according to Adams.

Alpizar then appeared to reach into his bag and the marshals fired two or three shots at him, he said. (Posted 6:04 p.m.)

Congressional committee finds need for U.N. reform

(CNN) -- A year-long congressional probe of the troubled, defunct U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq concluded Wednesday that the United Nations is still in desperate need of management reform.

In a final report, the U.S. House of Representatives International Relations Committee found that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein duped the United Nations to enrich himself through oil-for-food, a program that aided millions of Iraqis suffering as a result of sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

"Evidence obtained in the course of our inquiry paints a depressing picture of management blunders, bribery and outright graft," said U.S. Rep. Henry J. Hyde, R-Ill., the committee's chairman.

"As a founder of the U.N. and its largest donor, the U.S. has a vested interest in seeing the institution thrive and live up to its founding principles," he said. "Sadly, all of the management and oversight weaknesses that contributed to an environment of impunity and lawlessness at the highest ranks of the U.N. continue to this day." (Posted 4:23 p.m.)

Militant captors of Christian aid workers extend execution deadline

(CNN) -- The Islamist militants who are holding four Christian aid workers captive said late Wednesday they are extending by two days the deadline the group set for their execution.

The announcement accompanied a new video of the American and British hostages in which they are shown in orange jumpsuits and speak individually to the camera. Briton Norman Kember, 74, and American Tom Fox, 54, previously were shown on a video standing in drab jumpsuits and chained together by the hands and feet.

The captors, a group called the Swords of Justice Brigades, had threatened to kill Kember and Fox and two Canadian aid workers if their demands to release Iraqi prisoners were not met by Thursday. (Posted 4:06 p.m.)

Former British PM Thatcher hospitalized

LONDON (CNN) -- Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has been hospitalized after falling ill Wednesday afternoon, her political party said. S

he will be hospitalized overnight at London's Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where tests are being carried out, Conservative Party sources told CNN. The sources said she is expected to go home Thursday.

Thatcher, now 80, retired from public life in 2002 after suffering a stroke. She has suffered a number of minor strokes since then and has appeared frail in occasional public appearances. (Posted 4:01 p.m.)

Bush lacks credibility on Iraq, Murtha says

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Support for the war in Iraq is being undermined by a lack of credibility among top Bush administration officials, including the president himself, a leading Democratic congressman who advocates a U.S. withdrawal said Wednesday.

"I've seen damn little things that they have said was true turned out to be true," said Rep. John Murtha, a veteran Pennsylvania congressman and a retired Marine colonel. "That's my problem."

President Bush said Wednesday that Iraqis have made "quiet, steady progress" on economic, political and security issues during the two years of war.

But Murtha told reporters, "I don't see the kind of progress he sees." He said Iraqi electricity and oil production still lag behind prewar levels, and billions in reconstruction funds remain unspent.

Murtha is the ranking Democrat on the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, and he voted to authorize the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But he shook up Washington in November when he called for a swift U.S. withdrawal, arguing that the presence of American troops is only making the conflict worse. (Posted 3:35 p.m.)

Witness' brother says leaflets warn Dujail residents not to testify against Saddam

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Residents of the town that is the object of the Saddam Hussein trial received leaflets warning people not to testify against the former dictator, according to the brother of a witness who appeared in the court this week.

Ali Haj Hassan al-Dujaili, brother of Ahmed Hassan Mohammed, said leaflets were distributed by a group calling itself al-Tawheed and al-Jihad, or Unification and Jihad. That was the name of al Qaeda in Iraq before it affiliated with the al Qaeda terror network. But al-Dujaili said it is thought that the people who came up with the leaflets are actually local Baathists.

Al-Dujaili said the leaflets were placed in many locations in the town. --From CNN Producer Mohammed Tawfeeq (Posted 3:03 p.m.)

North Dakota man IDs Iraq hostage in video as his brother

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A North Dakota man on Wednesday said a man identified in a video as a hostage in Iraq is his brother.

Ed Schulz of Arvilla, N.D., told CNN he saw an image from the video on TV and said there's no question that the picture showed his brother, Ronald Schulz, an industrial engineer who has worked in Iraq.

Ed Schulz said FBI investigators are trying to retrace the steps of his brother, a former Marine who grew up in Jamestown, N.D. "The FBI is running with this as if it's Ron," he said. The United States has not officially identified the man. (Posted 2:41 p.m.)

Justices hear arguments over evidence at sentencing of death penalty defendants

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court on Tuesday showed measured exasperation with the idea that a convicted murderer -- in a sentencing hearing, when a jury is weighing whether to impose the death penalty -- can present evidence that might call into question his guilt or culpability.

The case has strong parallels to the upcoming sentencing trial of confessed terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, and is being watched by attorneys for both sides. It was one of two capital cases heard by the high court a week after the 1000th person was put to death since capital punishment was restored in 1976.

At issue is how far defendants facing execution can go to present so-called "findings of fact," that could decide whether capital punishment should be imposed.

Such evidence of "residual" or continuing doubts could persuade juries to decide on a lesser sentence. --From CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears (Posted 2:15 p.m.)

Annan rejects Eritrean expulsion of certain U.N. border monitors

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Wednesday the world body will not comply with Eritrea's order for U.N. staff from specified countries to leave that nation.

"The United Nations cannot accede to Eritrea's request and demands that the government immediately and unequivocally rescind its decision without preconditions," said a statement released by Annan's spokesman.

The Eritrean government ordered the expulsion of U.S., Canadian, European and Russian staff members working for the U.N. mission monitoring the tense border with Ethiopia.

U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe said the government informed the U.N. mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) that the staff would have 10 days to leave the country. No reason was given, Okabe said. (Posted 1:58 p.m.)

Schwarzenegger briefly hospitalized overnight, determined to OK

(CNN) -- California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger went to a hospital late Tuesday to be checked for a possible rapid heartbeat, but doctors determined his heart rate was normal, his office said Wednesday.

"He was observed for a few hours and released. He's feeling fine this morning and is in the office working," said Margita Thompson, the governor's press secretary.

She said Schwarzenegger suffered from stomach flu Tuesday and experienced a rapid heartbeat as a result. His personal doctor recommended he have it checked. Schwarzenegger went to the University of California, Davis, Medical Center for treatment around midnight. (Posted 1:45 p.m.)

Former presidents to dole out millions in aid

(CNN) -- Former U.S. presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton will announce Wednesday three major grants from their Hurricane Katrina relief fund totaling $90 million, CNN has learned.

The Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, a tax-exempt charity established to assist the recovery, has raised $110 million from individual and corporate donors. The initial grants will include:

--$40 million to funds already established by the governors of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama for non-governmental needs still unmet by local, state and national relief and rebuilding efforts.

--$30 million to more than 30 colleges and secondary schools in those three states, which were the ones most affected by the storm.

--$20 million to a ministers fund, administered by an executive committee of clergy, to address the needs of their communities and congregations. --From Senior Producer Phil Hirschkorn (Posted 12:55 p.m.)

Democratic sources: Rep. Menendez to be named to N.J. Senate seat

(CNN) -- New Jersey Gov.-elect Jon Corzine will name Rep. Robert Menendez as his successor in the U.S. Senate, multiple New Jersey Democratic sources told CNN Wednesday.

Menendez will serve the remaining year of Corzine's Senate term in 2006 while launching his own campaign for a full six-year term, the sources said. Details of the official announcement have not yet been announced.

Menendez was chosen over a handful of other Democrats being considered for the appointment, including Rep. Robert Andrews and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. , the sources said. A Corzine spokeswoman described any discussion of the appointment as "speculative."

The appointment would make Menendez the front-runner for the nomination to be the Democratic candidate to maintain the party's hold on the New Jersey Senate seat that will be filled in the 2006 midterm election. He has already amassed more than $4 million in his campaign war chest. State Sen. Tom Kean is the likely GOP nominee in the race. --From CNN Political Editor Mark Preston in Washington (Posted 12:37 p.m.)

Bush: 'Quiet, steady progress' being made in Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Wednesday trumpeted "quiet, steady progress" in Iraq on economic, political and security fronts, enabling the Iraqi people to transition from a dictatorship to democracy -- progress, he said, that doesn't "always make the headlines in the evening news."

Bush conceded reconstruction "has not always gone as well as we had hoped," but he vowed the United States would not abandon Iraq until "complete victory" is accomplished.

"In two and a half years, the Iraqi people have made amazing progress. They've gone from living under the boot of a brutal tyrant to liberation, to free elections, to a democratic constitution," Bush said. "By helping them build a democracy, we will inspire reformers from Damascus to Tehran. And by helping them build a democracy, we'll make the American people more secure."

Bush gave his speech to members of the Council on Foreign Relations, a foreign policy establishment whose members include influential Democrats critical of the administration's handling of the Iraq war. The address was the second of four major speeches the president is giving in an effort to bolster support for the war in Iraq.

The president used the speech to tout U.S. efforts to boost Iraq's infrastructure and economy. He said the coalition has helped introduce a new currency and reopened Iraq's stock exchange. And he noted that 30,000 new Iraqi businesses have registered since the March 2003 invasion. He added that 3,000 renovation projects have been completed at schools, more than 30,000 teachers have been trained and 8 million new textbooks have been distributed. An irrigation infrastructure has also been rebuilt, improving drinking water to more than 3 million Iraqis. (Posted 12:21 p.m.)

U.S. military, ending latest operation in Anbar, reports weapons confiscations, detentions

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- U.S. and Iraqi soldiers have ended their latest operation aimed at establishing security in Ramadi, the Anbar provincial capital, ahead of next week's elections for a four-year parliament, the Marine Corps said.

Insurgent detentions were made and weapons were confiscated in Operation Rams -- the sixth in such "disruption operation." It started Sunday, with 100 Iraqi soldiers and 400 U.S. soldiers.

"Altogether, Iraqi and coalition forces seized and destroyed 13 weapons caches and a total of six improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Two of the caches were significant in size and a 1,000-pound bomb was discovered and detonated by explosive ordnance disposal technicians," the Marines said in a written statement.

Eight suspected insurgents with al Qaeda in Iraq were detained and are "being held for questioning," they said. (Posted 12:09 p.m.)

Palestinian activist killed in Israeli missile attack

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- A member the radical Popular Resistance Committees was killed Wednesday and five other Palestinians were injured when the Israeli military fired a missile into a car in Rafah in southern Gaza, Palestinian sources said.

The Israel military sources said they targeted Mahmoud Arqan, 29, who they described as a senior militant in the Popular Resistance Committees, an umbrella group made up of radicals from several Gaza factions.

The Israeli sources said Arqan had been involved in recent shooting attacks against Israeli military forces near the fence that surrounds Gaza as well as past attacks against Israelis.

An Israeli military helicopter was seen in the air, followed by a loud explosion, the Palestinian sources said. (Posted 11:42 a.m.)

Canadian hostage's family appeals for release, a day before deadline

(CNN) -- Family members of Canadian James Loney appealed Wednesday for his release, a day before his hostage-takers have threatened to execute him and three other abducted Christian aid workers if their demands to release Iraqi prisoners are not met.

Recent video of the hostages showed Loney, 41, in a bright green blazer sitting beside fellow Canadian Harmeet Sooden, 32, at a table, eating and drinking.

"We are being treated well, we are both well, all of us are well," Loney said, followed by Sooden: "We're all being treated well, obviously being OK and we'd like to thank the people holding us for that, and hopefully we'll be home soon."

In stark contrast, Briton Norman Kember, 74, and American Tom Fox, 54, were shown separately, standing in drab jumpsuits, chained together by the hands and feet. (Posted 11:38 a.m.)

Witnesses in Saddam Hussein trial describe grinding brutality

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- After resuming its arduous proceedings without Saddam Hussein and hearing grisly descriptions of mistreatment from two anonymous witnesses, the Iraqi High Tribunal adjourned the trial of the toppled dictator and his seven co-defendants until Dec. 21, six days after the country's bellwether parliamentary elections.

The presiding judge, Rizgar Mohammed Amin, allowed Saddam Hussein to decline to attend the session after hearing reasons for his not being there. The reasons were not made public.

Two men -- identified only as Witness F and Witness G and speaking behind a curtain so they wouldn't be identified -- recounted many months of stark discomfort and brutality.

Witness F described blindfoldings, handcuffings, beatings, thirst, starvation and tight confinement for many months at intelligence headquarters in Baghdad and at the prison in Abu Ghraib. He also recounted a story about an Abu Ghraib inmate tortured until he died.

Hussein and seven co-defendants have been charged with crimes against humanity, including the 1982 killings of more than 140 males in Dujail. Those slayings were allegedly retribution for an assassination attempt on Hussein. (Posted 11:18 a.m.)

U.S., Afghan, coalition forces kill 22 militants

(CNN) -- U.S., Afghan and coalition forces killed 22 militants in operations across Afghanistan this week, military statements said.

Thirteen enemy fighters were killed on Sunday as Afghan and coalition forces launched an attack against an enemy cell in a small village north of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. A military statement said the group was responsible for a number of improvised explosive device attacks.

Wounded in the fighting were three Afghan, three U.S. and two other coalition soldiers. One of the coalition soldiers was seriously wounded and was evacuated to Germany for treatment.

Nine other enemy fighters were killed and six more were captured Tuesday after joint Afghan and U.S. combat operations northwest of Tarin Kowt came under fire from a nearby ridge.

There were no Afghan or U.S. casualties. (Posted 6:37 a.m.)

Saddam refuses to appear; court goes into closed session

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- After a delay of nearly three hours triggered by Saddam Hussein's failure to appear for the fifth day of his trial, and a brief session behind closed doors, reporters were called back into the courtroom in anticipation of the resumption of legal proceedings.

Reporters were called into the courtroom earlier, only to be told a closed session would be held. The closed session followed an hours-long delay stemming from the former Iraqi leader's refusal to appear, as defense attorneys met with judges and with Hussein on the issue, a court official said. It was unclear whether Hussein would appear if the trial resumes.

In the meetings, attorneys discussed issues including whether he could be compelled to be in court or whether there was another way to make him aware of the proceedings. After a nine-hour court session on Tuesday, Hussein complained he had worn the same clothes for several days and indicated he was not inclined to attend the trial Wednesday. "I will not be in a court without justice," he said. "Go to hell, all you agents of America." (Updated 7:03 a.m.)

Pakistani doctor arrested in connection with rape of 18-year-old quake victim

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- A doctor at a hospital in Lahore, Pakistan, was arrested in connection with the rape of an 18-year-old victim of the Oct. 8 earthquake who was a patient at the facility, officials said.

Dr. Maqsood, whose first name was not given, was arrested Wednesday, said Dr. Tahir Jawaid, provincial health minister. An inquiry committee was also formed to investigate the incident, he said.

The 18-year-old is from Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir and one of the hardest-hit areas of the 7.6-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 73,000 people nationwide. The teenager suffered severe injuries to her legs and arms and was brought to Mayo Hospital in Lahore -- one of the biggest government hospitals in Pakistan -- for treatment. On Saturday night, Maqsood allegedly took the girl to a room and assaulted her.

Jawaid said action will be taken against anyone else involved in the alleged incident, including anyone who had knowledge of it but took no action. -- From CNN's Syed Mohsin Naqvi (Posted 5:47 a.m.)

U.S. soldier killed in Habbaniya

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A U.S. soldier died Tuesday while on combat patrol in Anbar province, a military statement said.

The soldier, assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), was killed when his vehicle hit a mine near Habbaniya, about 50 miles west of Baghdad. Several U.S. Army units are working with the Marine Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Pentagon. Since the start of the war, 2,131 U.S. troops have died in Iraq. (Posted 4:45 a.m.)

Police: 40 dead, 70 wounded in Baghdad suicide attack

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The death toll in a dual suicide attack on a police academy in eastern Baghdad grew to 40 on Wednesday, police said. Seventy others were wounded.

Two suicide bombers walked into the academy around 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, detonating in the midst of the police officers and academy students. "One of the suicide bombers detonated near a group of students outside a classroom. Thinking the explosion was an indirect fire attack, Iraqi police and students fled to a bunker for shelter, where the second bomber detonated his vest," the U.S. military said in a news release.

There were two claims of responsibility on Web sites, one from al Qaeda in Iraq and the other from the Islamic Army in Iraq. Al Qaeda in Iraq, the group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed that two brothers carried out the attacks. The U.S. military and Iraqi officials have warned that insurgents would embark on such bloody, spectacular actions ahead of next week's Dec. 15 parliamentary election. (Updated 2:53 a.m.)

Gunmen attack Kirkuk hospital, free suspect

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- At least 15 gunmen attacked Kirkuk General Hospital on Wednesday, freeing a man accused of planting bombs and explosives, the Kirkuk police chief told CNN.

The assault on the hospital killed three police officers and wounded seven others in the city. Freed was Yousif Mohammed Khdaier, who was arrested by Iraqi police two weeks ago, said Police Chief Torhan Abdul Rahman, who called Khdaier a "terrorist." Khdaier was wounded at the time he was arrested, Rahman said. The attack occurred about 5 a.m. local time (9 p.m. Tuesday ET).

On Tuesday, a roadside bomb exploded near a popular cafe in the al-Zafaraniy neighborhood in the southern outskirts of Baghdad, killing at least three people, including an Iraqi policeman, and wounding 20, including three police officers, authorities said. The explosion occurred at 9 p.m. Tuesday, police said. --From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq (Updated 2:39 a.m.)

Blanco's notes: there's chance that New Orleans levees could give way

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In handwritten notes from a briefing the night before Hurricane Katrina swamped Louisiana, Gov. Kathleen Blanco referred to warnings of major storm surges, adding that "topping levees can happen."

Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast Aug. 29, flooded much of New Orleans and killed 1,086 people in Louisiana.

Blanco's notes are among more than 100,000 pages of documents Louisiana provided last weekend to Congressional investigators evaluating local, state and federal responses to the disaster.

Before Katrina came ashore, according to Blanco's notes, National Hurricane Director Max Mayfield "called me to say he is extremely concerned about the danger to New Orleans and the area parishes. We are evacuating, but too many people are not taking this seriously."

Blanco wrote that as of 9:30 p.m. Aug. 28, the hurricane was a "Cat 5," or Category 5. "May go Cat 4 ... landfall 150 mph winds" she wrote, adding "no guarantee" as a footnote. (posted 11:55 p.m.)

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