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GOP moderates say House's budget plan cuts too deeply

Eleven moderate House Republicans threatened Friday to oppose their chamber's GOP-written budget next week, complaining in a letter to leading lawmakers that it would cut taxes and spending too deeply.

With the Republicans' slim House majority, their complaints, and those of other centrists, could pressure GOP leaders to alter the fiscal framework that the Budget Committee approved on Thursday.

The moderates agreed the economy should be strengthened with tax cuts, soaring federal deficits must be controlled and terrorism confronted, but they wrote that spending needs for education, the environment, veterans and health care cannot be ignored.

While the letter complained only that the $1.4-trillion in tax cuts over 10 years proposed by the House budget was too high, the moderates generally prefer roughly one-third that amount, aides said.

The dissent surfaced a day after Senate moderates demanded a reduction in the tax cuts that President Bush wants.

House members who signed Friday's letter were Amo Houghton, Jack Quinn and Sue Kelly of New York; Mike Castle of Delaware; Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons of Connecticut; Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri; Fred Upton of Michigan; Todd Platts of Pennsylvania; Steven LaTourette of Ohio; and Ray LaHood of Illinois.

Life expectancy rises to 77.2 years for Americans

ATLANTA _ Life expectancy for Americans reached an all-time high of 77.2 years in 2001, federal officials said Friday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said life expectancy increased by two-tenths of a year from 2000. A drop in major causes of deaths such as heart disease, cancer and stroke contributed to the increase.

Auditors criticize decision to let meat into country

WASHINGTON _ The Agriculture Department jeopardized the safety of the U.S. food supply by letting in 823,632 pounds of meat from foreign plants that might not have been approved, department auditors say.

Some of the meat, imported from 1999 to 2001, came from plants in Argentina, Uruguay, the United Kingdom and Italy, "four countries that had outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001," according to a report by the department's inspector general.

The report found 66,299 pounds of the meat came from plants that were banned from trading because they didn't comply with U.S. food safety laws or were coping with an animal disease outbreak.

Democrat gives up post over comments about Iraq

WASHINGTON _ U.S. Rep. James Moran Jr., D-Va., quit his House leadership post Friday for making what he called "insensitive" remarks about Jews pushing the nation into war with Iraq.

Moran said he gave up his position as a regional whip for the House Democrats "as a way to demonstrate acceptance of responsibility" for his controversial comments at a March 3 antiwar forum in Reston, Va., when he said, "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this."

Air Force releases cadet rape punishment figures

DENVER _ The Air Force said Friday it has punished 21 male cadets for rape and other sex-related crimes since 1990, offering the numbers as evidence that it takes sexual misconduct at the Air Force Academy seriously.

Of the 21, five received jail time, eight were expelled and eight were reprimanded, the Air Force said. One cadet was exonerated, and one faces charges.

"This information was compiled to show that senior leaders are taking these matters seriously," said Valerie Burkes of the Air Force.

Social Security numbers from 55,000 stolen

AUSTIN, Texas _ Authorities filed federal charges Friday against a 20-year-old student accused of hacking into a University of Texas computer system and stealing Social Security numbers and other personal information from more than 55,000 students, faculty and staff members.

Christopher Andrew Phillips, who is studying computer science at the Austin campus, was charged with unlawful access to a protected computer and unlawful use of a means of identification.

Phillips told officials he had no intention of using the information to harm anyone, according to court papers. Federal prosecutors said there is no indication that the stolen data was used to anyone's detriment.

Elsewhere . . .

EBAY TO WARN OF "OFFENSIVE' ITEMS: After complaints from activists, Internet auction giant eBay said Friday it will caution sellers against describing items using a racial slur.

When a seller uses the n-word in an item description, a box will pop up on the computer screen telling the seller the listing contains a word which might be "highly offensive to many in the eBay community" and could violate the company's policy against racially offensive items.

EBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove said the change will likely go into effect by the end of April.

HOLOCAUST CLAIM DEADLINE EXTENDED: The deadline has been extended to Sept. 30 for people who want to recover money from unpaid Holocaust-era insurance claims. The International Commission on Holocaust-Era Insurance Claims said Friday the extension will provide enough time to publish additional policyholder names, allowing more people to file claims.


FONDUE POTS: Trudeau Corp. model number 082-384. Cause: Handles can break or melt. Injuries: Six. Action: Call company for replacement. Call: 1-877-659-4844. On the Web:

ELECTRIC SANDERS: Makita U.S.A. model numbers BO5000 and BO5001. Cause: Pieces and can break apart. Injuries: Three. Action: Call company for instructions. Call: 1-800-462-5482.

HOT POTS: Atico International USA Inc., date code 0702. Cause: Bottom of pot can separate. Action: Call company for instructions. Call: 1-800-645-3867.

INFANT CAR SEATS: Graco Children's Products Inc., model numbers 8402, 8412, 8442, 8442L, 8443, 8443L, 8444, 8444L, 8446, 8446L, 8447, 8447L, 8448, 8448L, 8457, 8458, 8459, 8601, 8463, 8464, 8470, 8471, 8478, C844342 and 841203. Cause: Parts might be missing. Action: Call company for instructions. Call: 1-866-473-0163. On the Web:

COMPUTER MONITORS: IBM G51 CRT and G51t Touch Screen CRT model numbers 6541-02N, 6541-02E, 6541-02S, 6541-Q0N, 6541-Q0E and 6541-Q0S. Cause: Can overheat and smoke. Action: Call company for inspection. Call: 1-866-644-3155. On the Web: