News In Brief

New Hampshire's top elections official predicted a record voter turnout for the state's presidential primary because of the tight races and good weather. According to tradition, the first votes were cast in tiny Dixville Notch and Hart's Location at 12:01 a.m., with Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona and Democrat Bill Bradley garnering the most overall.

NASA delayed the launch of space shuttle Endeavour until at least next Wednesday in order to replace a crucial computer that malfunctioned during an aborted countdown Monday. The computer is instrumental in igniting the twin solid-fuel booster rockets at liftoff and is also responsible for separating the boosters and external fuel tank from the shuttle later. The mission, already four months late, aims to map in detail more than 70 percent of Earth.

Legislation that toughens penalties for possession of a drug involved in date-rape cases passed the House and was forwarded to President Clinton. The Senate already has passed legislation, which provides for prison sentences of up to 20 years for dealing with GHB, or gamma hydroxybutyrate. The drug has been linked to at least 58 deaths since 1990 and more than 5,700 recorded overdoses, the Drug Enforcement Administration has reported. Rep. Fred Upton (R) of Michigan, the bill's House sponsor, said Clinton indicated he would sign the bill.

The House also OK'd legislation, forwarding it to Clinton, that requires the Agriculture Department to set national standards for electronic food-stamp accounts. Nearly half of food-stamp recipients use the accounts, which are currently set up state by state - thus hindering participants from obtaining groceries across a boundary. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R) of Illinois, author of the measure, which passed in the upper chamber in November, claimed that making all food-stamp benefits payable by electronic accounts could save $20 million a year in reduced paperwork.

Coast Guard ships and Navy vessels combed the Pacific Ocean off southern California for debris from Alaska Airlines Flight 261, which crashed there Monday afternoon. No survivors have been found from the MD-83 jetliner, which was carrying 88 people. Before the accident, the crew had communicated with air-traffic controllers about a problem with the jet's horizontal stabilizer, the National Transportation Safety Board, said. Although Alaska Airlines has one of the best safety records in the industry, federal officials recently have investigated its fleet of MD-80s because of alleged maintenance problems, reports said.

Construction spending surged 2 percent in December to an unprecedented, seasonally adjusted annual rate of $730.3 billion, the Commerce Department reported. Spending on single-family homes increased by 2.7 percent to a record rate of $222.2 billion. For the year, construction spending rose 6 percent. In a separate report, the National Association of Purchasing Management, based in Tempe, Ariz., said the US industrial sector grew for the 12th consecutive month in January. But it also reported that the prices of raw materials jumped, raising inflation worries.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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