Tropical storm looms off the coast of Florida

MIAMI – Tropical Storm Katrina threatened to dump more than a foot of rain on parts of already water-logged Florida as it approached the state late Wednesday, with forecasters expecting it to strengthen to at least a weak hurricane before hitting the coast.

Katrina was expected to strike Florida’s east coast early Friday. A 150-mile stretch of coast including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Vero Beach was under a hurricane watch, meaning sustained winds of at least 74 mph were possible.

The watch area also included inland Lake Okeechobee.

Montana: Airbus flight diverted

A Northwest Airlines flight traveling from Minneapolis to Bozeman on Wednesday was diverted to Billings because of a mechanical problem. The Airbus A320 with 136 passengers aboard landed at Billings Logan International Airport during the afternoon, and passengers used portable stairs to exit the plane. There were no injuries. An airline spokesman said the hydraulic problem was not linked to the strike by Northwest mechanics and maintenance workers that began Saturday.

California: Navajo court supported

A federal appeals court in San Francisco has ruled that American Indian activist Russell Means can be prosecuted in a Navajo tribal court even though he’s not a tribal member. Means, an Oglala-Sioux, is accused of threatening and battering his then-father-in-law, and threatening another man in December 1997 while visiting the reservation. He was charged with misdemeanors under the Navajo Code and could face jail time and fines if convicted. Means has tried to get the charges dismissed because he is not a Navajo.

Nevada: Reid goes back to work

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada made his first public appearance Wednesday since suffering a ministroke, joking with reporters and saying he’s eager for Congress to reconvene in September. “I feel like I could go a couple of rounds with all of you,” the former boxer said as he arrived at a community forum. “I’m anxious to get to work.” Reid, 65, canceled public appearances in Nevada last week and spent the weekend with family and friends after experiencing dizziness Aug. 16 at his home in Searchlight.

D.C.: Bullets penetrate vests

Bullets fired in government tests penetrated more than half the police body armor vests containing the synthetic fiber Zylon, already the subject of lawsuits over reliability. As a result, the government announced it would no longer help local police forces pay for bullet-resistant vests that contain Zylon, but would add $10 million to the $23 million already available for police vests. Justice Department tests showed that vests made with Zylon lose strength well before the standard five-year warranty expires.

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