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News Briefs

House Votes to Repeal New Ergonomics Rules

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

Republican-sponsored legislation to wipe out the first federal job safety rules targeting repetitive-motion injuries won final congressional approval Wednesday from the House after a short and fiercely partisan debate.

Ramming the measure through their chamber one day after it passed the Senate with equal speed, House Republican leaders whipped their ranks into line on an issue crucial to the party’s allies in the business community.

The House vote to kill the job-safety rules, issued in the final weeks of the Clinton administration, was 223-206. Only 13 of 220 Republicans strayed from their party leadership to support the rules.

The House action followed a 56-44 Senate vote for repeal Tuesday that demonstrated even stronger GOP discipline. Not one of the 50 Republican senators backed the rules.

The repeal legislation now heads to the White House. George W. Bush, strongly supported by many business groups and opposed by organized labor during his campaign, this week signaled he will sign it.

The principles of ergonomics, which call for working conditions tailored to the physical limits of workers, are applied in programs to reduce injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis and other disorders caused by repetitive, stressful or awkward motions. Federal data show that such ailments, known as musculoskeletal disorders, force at least 600,000 workers off the job each year.

FEC Looks at Ashcroft’s Failed Senate Re-election Bid

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

The Federal Election Commission opened a review Thursday into allegations that Attorney General John Ashcroft’s failed Senate re-election campaign broke campaign finance laws last year by improperly acquiring and renting out a massive donor list.

The review comes in response to a complaint filed by Common Cause and other campaign finance reform groups. They asserted that Ashcroft’s campaign reaped substantial benefits from the valuable donor list without reporting it as a gift, as required by federal law.

But officials with Ashcroft’s former campaign denied any wrongdoing.

“Common Cause does not understand the facts of this whole arrangement,” said Garrett Lott, deputy treasurer of the Ashcroft 2000 committee.

At issue is a fund-raising list of about 100,000 previous donors to GOP causes and candidates that Ashcroft used in his bid for re-election to the Senate from Missouri.

Chilean Court Weakens Case Against Pinochet

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA

A Chilean appellate court weakened the criminal case against former dictator Augusto Pinochet on Thursday, dismissing charges of homicide and kidnapping but ruling that Pinochet can be tried for covering up the crimes that occurred during his 17-year regime.

Although Chile’s center-left government insists that the justice system has acted independently in the Pinochet prosecution, Thursday’s 2-1 ruling was seen as a compromise in the slow-moving, highly politicized case. Overall, the ruling appeared more favorable to Pinochet than his opponents.