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News Briefs

FAA Announces Design Changes To Avert Fuel Tank Vapor Buildup


The Federal Aviation Administration Thursday announced that it will require design changes in aircraft built in the future to minimize buildup of flammable vapors in the fuel tanks, a measure that stems from the 1996 explosion of TWA Flight 800.

And in a plan that will affect 6,000 commercial aircraft, the agency will tell manufacturers to spend a year revalidating the designs of the fuel tank systems and developing mandatory inspection and maintenance procedures to prevent fuel tank explosions.

“This action represents a fundamental change in how fuel tanks are designed, maintained and operated,” said FAA administrator Jane Garvey.

The proposed rules, which are expected to take effect next year, will affect 36 models of aircraft made by a dozen manufacturers, including most models of Boeing and Airbus planes -- the most popular commercial aircraft in the world. Manufacturers will have 12 months to do design reviews and come up with new inspection and maintenance plans, and all new aircraft -- either on the drawing table or the assembly line -- will have to comply with new standards to minimize fuel vapors.

U.S. Economy Continues Inflation-Free Growth


The irrepressible U.S. economy grew at a 4.8 percent annual rate last summer, its fastest pace of the year, and it did so without triggering a new burst of inflation, the government said Thursday.

Although part of the increase resulted from measurement changes, the growth rate for the July-through-September quarter was still greater than expected and faster than the sluggish 1.9 percent pace of the previous quarter. The news sent stock and bond prices soaring.

The economy is now on track for a fourth full year of 4 percent plus growth, and by next February will have grown for nine consecutive years, the longest expansion in U.S. history.

Perhaps even more remarkable is that there are still few signs of inflation, despite what most analysts consider the ingredients for it.

The latest evidence came Thursday when the government reported that Americans’ wages and benefits rose a less-than-expected 0.8 percent in the three months from July through September and 3.1 percent in the year ending in September.

Clinton Defends Vice President Despite Gore’s Debate Snub


President Clinton strongly defended Vice President Gore Thursday, praising his colleague’s record even though Gore repeatedly has sought to put some distance between him and Clinton in his 2000 presidential campaign.

Clinton acknowledged that his affair with Monica Lewinsky might hurt Gore with some voters, but he minimized the likelihood. “The American people are inherently fair,” he said, and able to judge candidates on their merits.

At a White House news conference, Clinton said Gore “has a great record and has been the most accomplished vice president in history... . I gave him a kind of partnership and a level of responsibility never before remotely equaled in the history of this country, and I think that is worth something in an election because it shows what you can do.”

Twice in recent campaign settings Gore has made of point of expressing concerns about Clinton.