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LAST DASH FOR HURRICANE KATRINA AID

NEW ORLEANS

Hundreds of Louisianians whose homes were ruined by Hurricane Katrina rushed to meet a Tuesday deadline set by the state's troubled housing aid program, even as a deficit of billions of dollars threatened to leave thousands without a grant.

The program, known as the Road Home and financed with federal dollars, has provided grants to fewer than a quarter of all applicants. In recent days applications poured in at the rate of more than 1,000 per day, mostly by phone and Internet, officials say. The cutoff for applications was Tuesday, the last chance many will get for government help to cover losses from the hurricane.

As many as 50,000 homeowners could end up without aid, Louisiana officials say. The shortfall is blamed variously on misjudgments by the state and Washington when the program was designed more than a year ago.

FRESNO, CALIF.

Huge water rights deal appears sealed

The U.S. government appears poised to turn over the rights to billions of gallons of water to a politically connected group of farmers in California, where most people are being asked to conserve.

Landowners in the Westlands Water District would gain the rights to 1-million acre-feet of water under a proposed settlement that federal regulators are likely to present today. An acre-foot translates to the amount needed to cover one acre with a foot of water.

That's 15 percent of the federally controlled water in California, which would make it the largest grant to irrigators since the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was created in 1903, agency officials said.

WASHINGTON

Report: $4B needed for language classes

Spending on English instruction must be quadrupled to more than $4-billion a year for the next six years to make legal and illegal adult immigrants proficient in skills crucial to their assimilation, a new national report says.

In the first nationwide study of its kind, the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute estimates that an additional $200-million a year is needed to improve legal immigrants' English skills enough for them to pass a citizenship test and "fully participate in the country's civic life." An additional $2.9-billion a year is required for illegal immigrants to meet those standards, the report says.

Federal and state governments currently spend about $1-billion a year on English As a Second Language instruction for adults, most of which comes from the states.

COLUMBUS, OHIO

Somali immigrant guilty in mall plot

A Somali immigrant who the government says plotted to blow up an Ohio mall pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.

Nuradin Abdi, 35, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley a week before his trial had been expected to start. Under a plea deal, Abdi is expected to receive a 10-year sentence on the count, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years. Three other charges were dropped, and he will be deported after serving his sentence.

The Justice Department accused Abdi of suggesting the plan to attack an unidentified Columbus shopping mall during an August 2002 meeting with now-convicted al-Qaida terrorist Iyman Faris and a third suspect, Christopher Paul. The suspected plot was never carried out.

Elsewhere

OVERPASS COLLAPSES: A highway overpass that was under construction collapsed Tuesday in Oroville, Calif., crushing a delivery truck and seriously injuring a construction worker who clung to a steel beam as it tumbled 50 feet to the ground.

KIDS LEFT IN CAR: A woman accused of leaving her two young children in a hot car in Charleston, S.C., while she was at work was charged with homicide by child abuse after their bodies were found wrapped in trash bags under an apartment sink, authorities said. Investigators found a note that Sametta Heyward left at her apartment, explaining that she had arranged for a babysitter, but when plans fell through she took the children with her in the car to work.

TROPICAL STORM: Tropical Storm Chantal, the third named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, was rapidly losing the characteristics of a tropical storm late Tuesday as it moved across the Atlantic. It could still carry heavy rain to Canada but was not forecast to threaten the United States.

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