In yet another moment that some legal analysts said could be Al Gore's last stand, the US Supreme Court was to hear arguments today on the hand-counting of about 43,000 so-called "undervotes" in Florida's presidential election. By a 4-to-3 decision Friday, the state's Supreme Court ordered the tallying of the ballots, in which no selection for president was read by voting machines. But the federal justices, in a 5-to-4 vote Saturday, suspended the counts at least until they hear the case. Their decision was split largely along ideological lines.
President Clinton praised his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, for his plan to pardon and release a retired US Navy officer sentenced last week to 20 years in prison for espionage. Putin said he was obliged to heed the unanimous recommendation of a Kremlin commission to free Edmond Pope, who has experienced serious health problems. The release likely was to occur sometime after Thursday because of various technicalities. Clinton said the developments would have a positive effect on US-Russian relations.
California took additional steps to deal with an energy crisis that could face its biggest test today, when temperatures in some parts of the state were expected to plunge to about 12 degrees F. below normal. Air-quality regulators allowed several power plants to resume operations that were halted because they'd reached pollution limits, and hundreds of companies voluntarily cut consumption. Meanwhile, federal energy regulators lifted price caps on wholesale electricity in the state - a move that power grid managers claimed would help ease the crunch, but that Gov. Gray Davis (D) said would only push electricity prices higher.
Amtrak's Acela Express, a high-speed rail service, was scheduled to make its first run today for paying passengers traveling between Washington, New York, and Boston. The trains, which are equipped with a special "tilting" system to maintain higher speeds on curves, are supposed to hit 150 m.p.h. - a first for North America. Amtrak hopes to pick up an additional 2 million passengers and some $200 million in revenues to help cut losses.
A new international terminal at San Francisco airport was to open officially and become the largest such facility in North America. The $2.4 billion terminal has been engineered to withstand earthquakes as well as terrorist bombings. It also has been noted for a "common use" system that allows different airlines to share the 168 check-in counters as demand dictates.
A federal judge ruled Friday that the way the University of Wisconsin distributes student fees to fund campus organizations is unconstitutional because it has no guarantee that the funding decisions are ideologically neutral - a requirement set down by the US Supreme Court. That judiciary had approved of the mandatory fees eight months ago but had ordered further examination of the distribution method. District Judge John Shabaz in Madison said students had too much discretion in making decisions.
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