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Feds say they’re ready for hurricanes

U.S. disaster preparedness officials Tuesday declared themselves ready for the June 1 onset of hurricane season, amid mounting anxiety in Gulf Coast states hit by last year’s devastating storms that recovery efforts and repairs to the nation’s emergency response system remain incomplete.

Federal authorities have stockpiled four times as much food and ice as they had before hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck last year, supplies capable of sustaining 1 million people for at least seven days, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and top U.S. military commanders said at a news conference. The government has also spent $800 million improving National Guard communications and has forged the closest civilian and military disaster response command structure ever, they said.

“We are … much more prepared as a nation than we have ever been to confront a major hurricane,” Chertoff said. He called on the nation’s 60 million coastal residents to prepare their families for disasters and to heed warnings from authorities.

But the claims came with hundreds of thousands of displaced victims from last year’s hurricanes still living in more than 100,000 trailers in Louisiana and Mississippi, creating the potential for a new evacuation and housing crisis if another storm strikes. States and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are rushing to overhaul the tracking and movement of disaster supplies, but efforts are uncoordinated, state leaders warn.


NYC, Twin Cities eye ‘08 convention

New York City and Minneapolis-St. Paul want to host a 2008 political convention – either for Republicans or Democrats.

The two locations asked both parties to consider them as potential sites of the presidential-nominating conventions. The other cities vying for the GOP nod are Cleveland and a joint bid from Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla. The Democrats are considering Denver and New Orleans.

The Republicans, who last met in New York City for the 2004 convention, will announce finalists by July 1 and their choice by Feb. 1, 2007, a spokesman said. At first, 34 cities asked for applications to host the GOP event.

The Democrats, who last met in Boston, will announce a decision late this fall. A spokesman said 11 sites expressed interest in having the party’s convention, but only four completed the proposals.


Senate panel OKs Bush’s budget pick

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman won a unanimous endorsement Tuesday from the Senate Budget Committee to head the White House budget office.

Portman, a former GOP representative from Cincinnati, would replace White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten as director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Portman is a longtime Bush loyalist and was one of the president’s top allies on Capitol Hill. His nomination now goes before the full Senate, which may confirm Portman as early as this week.


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N. Korea, setting stage for talks, halts nuclear, ICBM tests

UPDATED: 10:03 p.m.

North Korea said Saturday it has suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests and plans to close its nuclear test site ahead of a new round of negotiations with South Korea and the United States. There was no clear indication in the North’s announcement if it would be willing to deal away its arsenal.