News In Brief

Federal action to extend electricity price relief throughout the West this summer is a "step in the right direction," California Gov. Gray Davis (D) said. But he argued that utilities supplying power to his state should be ordered to make massive refunds. Davis is due to testify today before a Senate hearing on the issue of price controls on electricity. Monday's move by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, however, will neither increase California's power supply nor reduce the threat of blackouts.

The chief executives of Ford and Firestone were to offer competing testimony before the House Commerce Committee on the failure of tires mounted on the Explorer sport utility vehicle. As the session began, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration raised the number of deaths attributed to such failures by 29 - to 203. In written testimony, the agency also said it's considering an investigation of the Explorer in addition to one already under way of Firestone tires. Last month, Firestone said it will end almost a century-long business relationship with Ford. The automaker countered by saying it may demand that Firestone help to pay an estimated $3 billion to replace 13 million Wilderness AT tires on its vehicles.

Juan Raul Garza, the Mexican-American narcotics trafficker and confessed murderer was executed at daybreak Tuesday at the same prison in Terre Haute, Ind., where federal authorities put Timothy McVeigh to death last week. Garza had sought to have his sentence reduced to life behind bars, arguing he was a changed man, but his final appeals were denied by the Supreme Court and President Bush.

Thanks to low mortgage and interest rates, housing starts across the US dipped by a smaller-than-expected 0.4 percent in May, the Commerce Department reported. The decline was led by the Northeast, where ground-breaking fell 28.3 percent, but that was partially offset by gains in the West and Midwest. In April, housing starts rose 2.3 percent.

A tornado that struck without warning was blamed for three deaths and heavy property damage in rural Siren, Wisc. The storm-warning system in the town of 900 people has been inoperative since it was struck by lightning earlier this year, reports said. Siren is about 70 miles northeast of Minneapolis.

One in five teenagers who use the Internet regularly report being solicited for various forms of sexual activity, a new survey found. The University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, in a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said the unwanted solicitations presumably came from adult strangers via online chat rooms. The study also found that filtering/blocking technology and parental oversight of online activity had little affect on the solicitations.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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