Media begin inspecting Florida ballots

In many ways, the scene that unfolded in the Miami-Dade County elections office had the all-too-familiar look of the event that transfixed and bored millions of Americans late last year when the Florida presidential vote recount was in full swing: squinty-eyed workers staring at disputed ballots.

But this time, there was no mention of candidates” names. There was no consulting among workers. None were allowed to touch a ballot. Indeed, they were not referred to as counters at all, but as “coders.”

Yesterday was opening day of the “Florida Ballots Project,” an undertaking sponsored by a group of eight major media organizations, including The Washington Post, the New York Times and CNN, and carried out by the National Opinion Research Center, a nonprofit corporation affiliated with the University of Chicago.

During the next couple of months, workers overseen by NORC will code the disputed “undervote” and “overvote” ballots in Florida”s 67 counties in the presidential and Senate races about 180,000 ballots in all. An undervote is a ballot on which the counting machine did not detect a mark. An overvote is one in which the machine detected two or more marks.

In Miami-Dade, the coders will examine about 10,500 undervotes and about 19,000 overvotes.

ew campaign aims to cut AIDS epidemic

A government campaign intended to “break the back” of the AIDS epidemic will try to cut the number of new infections in half by 2005, largely by identifying Americans who carry HIV but do not know it.

The effort, announced yesterday by the Centers for Disease and Prevention, is based on the idea that most AIDS infections are spread by outwardly healthy people who do not realize they have HIV.

The agency believes that if these people knew they were infected, they would be more careful to protect others, and they would also take AIDS drugs that would probably make them less likely to transmit the virus.

The CDC already spends about $600 million a year on AIDS prevention, mostly to try to keep uninfected people from catching the virus.

“We have been dealing with half of the equation,” said the CDC”s Dr. Robert Janssen. “Now it”s time to look at all of it.”

Officials said the campaign would cost an additional $300 million annually. The CDC already has $100 million of this and hopes to get funding for the rest.

Yugoslavia responds to Albanian attack

Yugoslavia”s government adopted what it described as a peace plan for the troubled southern part of the country, offering a place in local governments to moderate ethnic Albanians in hopes of deflating tensions.

The move came hours after ethnic Albanian militants launched an attack against Yugoslav positions in the troubled region yesterday.

The plan”s architects see it as a power-sharing deal to appease ethnic Albanians living in the tense boundary area between the province of Kosovo and the rest of Serbia, Yugoslavia”s larger republic. Militant groups seeking independence have been fighting Yugoslav authorities in the area.

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica presided at the government session which discussed the situation in the three-mile boundary zone near Kosovo.

Analysts: Recession pending in Japan

Barely a week after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori boasted to financial elites in Davos, Switzerland, that his nation was ready to reclaim its place “on the leading edge of the world economy,” analysts and investors are warning that Japan appears to be sliding into its second recession in 18 months and may be teetering on the brink of another banking crisis.

Mori spoke confidently of revival at the mountain conclave, comparing Japan to a climber who is “80 percent up” the path to the summit and “at the stage of a final push.” But a flurry of disappointing data released since Mori”s return to Tokyo suggest an alternative alpine metaphor: downhill racer. The Japanese government reported last week that industrial output regarded by many analysts as a key indicator of future growth ground to a near-standstill in the final three months of 2000.

Gore teaches first class at Columbia

Former Vice President Al Gore taught his first class at one of the nation”s premier journalism schools yesterday but only off the record.

With security officers keeping news media at bay, Gore delivered his first lecture at Columbia University”s Graduate School of Journalism in a class titled “Covering National Affairs in the Information Age.”

“As I understand it, the normal policy is that the classes are usually off the record,” Gore said later. “I would have had the option to do it on the record, but I think the students will get more out of it, if it”s as much as possible a normal classroom experience.”

University spokeswoman Suzanne Trimel called the class a learning experience for students, “not a news event.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.