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A vehicle equipped with technology to allow a blind person to drive will be on display at the National Federation of the Blind's annual convention, which begins today and continues through Thursday in Dallas. The Ford Escape is operated by nonvisual interface technology, using a pair of gloves equipped with vibrating motors that tell the blind person which way to steer. "'Revolutionary' is the word for it," said Chris Danielsen, director of public relations for the federation.

The vehicle, a joint project of the federation and Virginia Tech, will be demonstrated in January at the Rolex 24 in Daytona Beach. A blind person will drive the Escape on part of the Daytona International Speedway course before the race.

One of the issues to be discussed is a Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, which addresses the threat that hybrid and electric cars pose to blind people when they are crossing the street or making their way through a parking lot. "Hybrid and electric cars are very quiet, and blind people can't hear them when they're traveling," Danielsen said.


Hatch, Murkowski to vote against Kagan

GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska say they will oppose Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court. Hatch supported Kagan's installation as U.S. solicitor general. Murkowski did not. Hatch said Friday that a Supreme Court nominee needs "both legal experience and, more importantly, the appropriate judicial philosophy." He said "General Kagan, regrettably, does not meet this standard." Murkowski said Kagan also did not give Americans any idea how she will approach "difficult cases" as a justice at her confirmation hearing. GOP Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma has also said he will oppose Kagan's confirmation, although she is expected to be approved by the full Senate.

House chops $500M from Race to the Top

House Democrats have approved a bill to slice funding from President Barack Obama's flagship school reform program despite a White House veto threat. The war-funding bill the House approved late Thursday included a provision the Obama administration strenuously opposed: a proposed $500 million cut to the $4.35 billion Race to the Top reform contest. Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., chairman of Appropriations Committee, said the cut is necessary to free up money for a new $10 billion fund to help save more than 100,000 education jobs at a time when states and local governments are facing major budget challenges. The jobs fund and about $5 billion for Pell grants for needy college students were included in the war spending bill on a vote of 239 to 182.


City Council approves new handgun limits

Members of the Chicago City Council have approved what city officials say is the strictest handgun ordinance in the United States. Friday's 45-0 vote comes four days after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling made it almost certain that Chicago's handgun ban would be overturned. The high court ruled Americans have a right to own a gun for self-defense anywhere they live. The new city ordinance bans gun shops in Chicago and prohibits gun owners from stepping outside their homes, even onto their porches or garages, with a handgun.


California: A state appellate court on Friday sided with the Schwarzenegger administration in its attempt to temporarily impose the federal minimum wage on tens of thousands of state workers. On Thursday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered that 200,000 state workers be paid the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour as the state wrestles with a budget crisis.

MEXICO: Authorities said Friday they arrested Jesus Ernesto Chavez, leader of a street gang, who said he ordered the execution of U.S. consular worker Lesley A. Enriquez and her husband, Arthur Redelfs, in Ciudad Juarez in March because she was providing visas to rivals. American officials in Mexico City said Enriquez worked in the consulate's U.S. citizens services section, which does not deal with visas.

Germany: Historical records that document Adolf Hitler's time in the Landsberg prison in 1924 were auctioned to an anonymous bidder for $33,400 on Friday.

Times wires