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Wildfire prompts evacuations

A Southern California wildfire driven by Santa Ana winds ate through 1,200 acres of wilderness Monday near Orange County suburbs, forcing evacuation of 1,500 homes.

The dwellings were protected by fire crews, and there were no reports of damage by midafternoon, said Orange County Fire Authority spokesman Dennis Shell.

Pungent smoke stained the skies brown for miles across the Los Angeles metropolitan region.

Red flag warnings for critical fire danger were posted for much of the region, from Santa Barbara County south to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Gusts of dry wind hit 60 mph in the morning, with sustained winds of about 30 mph, but they moderated in the afternoon.


McCain, Obama spar over letters

Republican Sen. John McCain on Monday accused his Democratic colleague Barack Obama of “partisan posturing” on the issue of lobbying ethics reform – a charge Obama called puzzling and regrettable.

The exchange, made in letters between the pair, was the latest sign of trouble as the two parties try to come up with legislation governing relations with lobbyists.

Based on past Obama statements, “I concluded your professed concern for the institution and the public interest was genuine and admirable,” McCain, R.-Ariz., wrote in a letter to Obama, D-Ill., Monday. “Thank you for disabusing me of such notions.”

Obama responded in a letter later Monday that he had “no idea what … prompted” McCain to strike out like that.

McCain was responding to an earlier Obama letter in which the Democrat thanked McCain for including him in bipartisan talks on lobbying reform but expressed differences in approach to the issue.

Simi Valley, Calif.

Reagan honored on 95th birthday

President Reagan was remembered on what would have been his 95th birthday Monday for his efforts to end the Cold War and restore national pride after a period of malaise.

President Bush sent a wreath in honor of the late president, who died June 5, 2004, after a 10-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Marine Col. John Coleman joined retired Gen. P.X. Kelley, former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in placing the red-and-white carnation wreath on the grave at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Kelley, who credited the nation’s 40th chief executive with restoring pride in the nation and the military, recalled Reagan telling him early in his first term how he wanted to return salutes to members of the military.

Kelley told Reagan he could do whatever he wanted as commander in chief.


Clerk resigns after indictment

Chicago’s city clerk resigned Monday, more than three weeks after he was charged with soliciting bribes and obstructing justice in a widespread corruption investigation.

James Laski, 52, submitted his resignation to Mayor Richard Daley in a letter, said clerk’s office spokesman Gregg Cunningham.

Laski was charged Jan. 13 with soliciting thousands of dollars in payoffs in exchange for getting a trucking company operator city business and with pressuring a witness to lie to a grand jury. He was named along with four other men in an indictment about two weeks later.

Laski was the highest-ranking official among more than 40 people charged in the federal investigation of corruption in Chicago government.