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News Briefs

Colorado Election Workers Still Tabulating Votes

THE WASHINGTON POST -- BRIGHTON, COLO.

The Adams County Elections Department has seen the future -- and it’s slow. Ten days after the polling places closed, election workers are still plowing methodically through a mountain of ballots as they struggle to figure out who won the closest congressional election of 2002 in Colorado’s new 7th District.

The preliminary result on election night showed Republican Bob Beauprez leading Democrat Mike Feeley by 386 votes for the House seat. But that left a few thousand “provisional ballots” uncounted. And before those votes can be tallied, every ballot must be verified individually by election workers. With luck, officials say, the remaining votes should be ready to count by the start of next week.

This time-consuming slog represents the future of U.S. elections. Under the new federal election law, the “provisional ballot” system in use here will become mandatory in every state beginning with the 2004 election.

FCC Allows Mobile Carriers To Opt Out of $16 Billion in Fees

LOS ANGELES TIMES

Freeing several of the nation’s biggest mobile phone companies to pursue other means of securing airwaves for their growing masses of subscribers, federal regulators Thursday agreed to let carriers opt out of their obligation to pay $16 billion for wireless licenses now owned by NextWave Telecom Inc.

The decision by the Federal Communications Commission was a victory for Verizon Wireless Inc., VoiceStream Wireless Corp. and more than a dozen other carriers that had sought to wash their hands of a six-year-old airwave dispute that left the ownership of 197 government-issued wireless phone licenses up in the air.

“As the months have passed and the economic difficulties worsened, it has become increasingly clear that allowing the winners to exit the auction is the right course,” FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell said Thursday. “Although the commission cannot cure the capital crunch, it can remove the cloud of uncertainty.”

The FCC said the mobile carriers could apply in the next 45 days to be relieved of their financial obligations and reclaim millions of dollars now held by the federal Treasury as deposits.

House Kills High-Profile Bankruptcy Bill

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

The House handed the business community a stunning defeat Thursday by killing legislation intended to make it harder for consumers to wipe out debt through bankruptcy.

The 243 to 172 procedural vote was led by conservative Republicans who defied President Bush and their own leadership over objections to a three-paragraph provision preventing anti-abortion protesters and others from using bankruptcy law to avoid paying court-imposed fines.

The vote means the measure, which has been pushed by the credit card industry and opposed by consumer groups, is dead for this Congress, Republican and Democratic congressional aides said. Republicans, who spoke on the condition their names not be used, said the decision by House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) and Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) to bring the bill to a vote was a miscalculation.

Congress has tried repeatedly to pass similar legislation in what would be the most significant change in bankruptcy law in over a quarter of a century.