News In Brief

The House was expected to pass a measure that would eliminate the estate tax by 2011, part of President Bush's overall $1.6 trillion tax-relief plan. The measure would cost $193 billion and would start phasing out the levy next year. It affects the estates of about 2 percent of people who die each year. Avoiding the tax, which tops out at 55 percent, requires costly insurance and estate planning, causing problems for some farmers and small businesses.

Bush's narrow margin of victory in Florida would likely have tripled had the Supreme Court allowed a hand recount of "undervotes" to be completed, a review of ballots by the Miami Herald and USA Today concluded. Bush would have expanded his 537-vote victory to a margin of 1,665 if the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court had gone ahead under the most inclusive standards, the papers said. Those standards would have counted partial punches and "dimples." But the Herald reported the balance would have tipped to Al Gore by 393 votes if a recount of undervotes using loose measurements had started from scratch in all Florida counties.

The Postal Service, hit by slowing business and billions of dollars in projected losses, is considering whether to eliminate Saturday deliveries and close or consolidate some facilities, officials said. The service said wage increases, a drop in first-class mail volume, rising fuel costs, competition, and increasing use of electronic alternatives are to blame. Postmaster General William Henderson told a congressional hearing that laws regulating the service's operations need to change to provide more flexibility in setting rates.

Low-profit warnings from thousands of companies and the escalating surveillance plane dispute between the US and China sent Wall Street into a slump Tuesday. The Nasdaq lost more than 100 points to close at 1673.00 - its lowest since October 1998. The Dow Jones Industrial also fell 292.22 points, closing at 9485.71. Meanwhile, UCLA's Anderson School of Business predicted a recession is "very likely" this year, but that it would be brief, with at least a partial recovery by year's end.

Expected low inventories of gasoline are likely to cause regional supply problems and another summer of high prices at the pump, industry experts warned. The American Petroleum Institute reported a sharp 4.27-million-barrel drawdown in gasoline stocks in the past week - when the market had expected one of just 500,000 barrels. Nationally, inventories have fallen to 10 million barrels below a year ago, when supply proved inadequate to meet peak consumption during the summer vacation driving season.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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