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News Briefs

McCain Accuses Bush of ‘Savagery’


Sen. John McCain, defending his past votes for public financing for congressional elections, accused rival George W. Bush of “savagery” in attempting to find contradictions in the Arizona senator’s voting record.

“They’ve got 200 staffers trying to comb John McCain’s voting record,” the candidate said of the Bush campaign. “I’m sure they’ll find some contradictions, but the overall record is clear.”

McCain was peppered by reporters on his bus with questions the Bush campaign had raised about his voting record, particularly various votes for public financing of elections, which McCain says he opposes. (His aides distributed a list of 11 votes against public financing of elections.)

McCain said some of his votes in favor were necessary compromises. “That’s the essence of legislation,” he said, arguing that Bush is doing the same thing to him that Steve Forbes did to Robert J. Dole in ’96.

But he acknowledged his positions have evolved on some issues. “Total rigidity of position over 17 years in Congress would be foolishness,” he said. McCain said that if he were president, he would make the abolition of soft money his top campaign-finance measure, but he would also “revisit every abuse of the campaign-finance system,” including the provisions in his original McCain-Feingold legislation.

Judge Blocks Defense from Seeing Memo in Death-Penalty Trial


A Los Angeles federal judge Monday denied Buford O’Neal Furrow Jr. access to a prosecution memo recommending whether he should face a death-penalty trial.

Furrow, an avowed white supremacist, is accused of murdering a Filipino-American mail carrier, a capital offense, after wounding five people in August at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in the Granada Hills section of Los Angeles.

The final decision on whether to seek the death penalty is up to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. She has until Feb. 22 to make that call.

Under Justice Department protocol, before any decision is made, a defendant is allowed to present mitigating evidence to local prosecutors and to a special death-penalty committee at the Justice Department in Washington.

NTSB: Alaska Airlines Rethought Changing Parts on Crashed Plane


Alaska Airlines determined in 1997 that critical parts of the aircraft that crashed Jan. 31 should be replaced but reversed itself a day later when further tests showed the parts fell within maximum tolerances, the National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday.

The board, in a late-night statement, emphasized there was no determination whether this had any bearing on the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261, which dived into the Pacific off Los Angeles, killing 88 people.

However, the information is significant enough to spark a major review of all the airline’s maintenance records on the accident aircraft, a McDonnell Douglas twin jet MD-83.

The parts in question, the jackscrew and a gimbal nut that fit together to raise and lower the horizontal stabilizer, have been found to have evidence of damage that might have occurred before the crash and that could have come from grinding between the two.