20,000-plus told to evacuate

More than 20,000 people along Florida’s Gulf Coast were ordered to clear out Monday as Alberto – the first tropical storm of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season – unexpectedly picked up steam and threatened to come ashore as a hurricane.

Forecasters posted a hurricane warning for the Gulf Coast and a tropical storm warning from north of Daytona Beach to the Georgia-South Carolina line. Alberto, which could begin battering the Gulf coast early today, was expected to cross through Florida and into Georgia.

Gov. Jeb Bush signed a declaration of emergency allowing him to call up the National Guard and put laws against price gouging into effect.

“We’re talking about powerful forces of nature,” Bush said. “People need to take this very seriously.”

If Alberto came ashore as a hurricane, it would be the earliest hurricane in 40 years to hit the United States, according to the National Hurricane Center.


Sen. Byrd sets service record

At the age of 88, Sen. Robert Byrd on Monday became the longest-serving senator in history, a milestone in a career that once put him on Richard Nixon’s short list for the Supreme Court and now makes him an icon of the left.

Byrd, with 17,327 days of service since 1959 as a Democratic senator from West Virginia, has eclipsed the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., once the epitome of longevity.

In that time, Byrd has exemplified political evolution. Once an opponent of civil rights legislation who embraced the conservatism of Southern Democrats, he’s now a darling of the liberal Internet blogosphere, where his floor speeches denouncing the war in Iraq are passed around Web audiences at the touch of a button.

Last year, he raised $800,000 through the help of, the Internet-driven liberal movement launched in 1998 to fight the impeachment of President Clinton. Byrd now advertises on the liberal Daily Kos Web site, where a mouse click links to a fundraising appeal for his 2006 re-election campaign.


Arguments heard in spying case

The government’s warrantless domestic spying faced its first courtroom test Monday, with the Bush administration arguing that the program is well within the president’s authority but that proving it would require revealing state secrets.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor heard arguments in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against the National Security Agency. The ACLU wants the program halted immediately, arguing that it violates the rights to free speech and privacy.

The judge gave no indication of when she might rule.


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