Republicans warn Holder on probe

WASHINGTON - Leading Republican lawmakers cautioned Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. yesterday against opening an investigation into alleged CIA interrogation abuses, saying such a probe could have serious national security repercussions.

"It is well past time for the Obama administration to lift the cloud that has been placed over those in the intelligence community and let them return to the job of saving American lives," said a letter to Holder signed by nine Republican senators.

Among the signers were Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona, ranking intelligence committee Republican Christopher S. Bond of Missouri, and ranking Judiciary Committee Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

The letter underscored the political dynamic surrounding Holder's deliberations. A Justice official said no decision had been made on whether to appoint a prosecutor.

- Los Angeles Times

Hurricane Bill now Category 4

MIAMI - Hurricane Bill howled over the open Atlantic yesterday as a dangerous Category 4 storm, and it could be energized by warmer waters as it moves north.

Forecasters said Bill should begin pushing large swells toward Bermuda and parts of the southeast U.S. coast by the weekend. It was not clear how close Bill would come to land.

As strong as the hurricane is, it could get stronger because it is traveling into warmer waters in the Atlantic that could intensify the storm, senior hurricane specialist Lixion Avila said. - AP

Jan. trial is set on gay-marriage ban

SAN FRANCISCO - A judge said yesterday that he wanted a federal lawsuit challenging California's same-sex-marriage ban to go to trial Jan. 11, proceedings that will showcase expert witnesses on topics from parenting to the relative political influence of gays.

In setting the hastened timetable, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker called the case "a matter of huge importance" for Californians and indicated he would not tolerate legal maneuvers that could delay its resolution.

The judge also barred several advocacy groups from joining the lawsuit against the voter-approved ban, known as Proposition 8. Its passage last November overruled a California Supreme Court decision that briefly legalized same-sex marriages. - AP

Elsewhere:

Hundreds of century-old trees lay snapped in half and uprooted throughout New York's Central Park yesterday after a severe thunderstorm overnight carried winds up to 80 m.p.h. Several parked cars were destroyed when branches landed on them.

A former Las Vegas director for ACORN, a political advocacy group accused of illegally paying canvassers to register voters during last year's presidential campaign, has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and agreed to testify against the group and another employee. The case threatens the group's ability to operate in Nevada.