Nation briefs

Sunday, February 1, 2004

Medicare cost a highlight issue in election year

WASHINGTON -- The much larger projected cost of the new Medicare law is giving an even more prominent place to an issue both parties already planned to highlight this election year. Democrats said the dramatically increased estimate -- from $395 billion to $534 billion over 10 years -- adds to a mountain of evidence that the law needs to be changed, even before much of it has gone into effect. Republicans have said any changes to the law are unlikely this year as they have laid claim to an issue Democrats have long dominated.

Second caller says he is highway shooter

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A day after announcing that a 911 caller had claimed responsibility for a string of highway shootings, investigators said Saturday that a second man has called and threatened to attack police officers. The man who called early Saturday morning is believed to be different from the man who repeatedly called 911 on Monday to claim responsibility for 20 shootings around Interstate 270 south of the city. "It's gonna get worse," the latest caller said. "I intend to start shooting at the police now."

NASA's Opportunity rover rolls onto Mars surface

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Opportunity rolled off its lander and onto the rusty soil of Mars early Saturday, a week after the six-wheeled rover arrived on the Red Planet. Scientists at NASA erupted in cheers as the first photograph taken by Opportunity following its roll-off appeared on a screen in mission control. The initial black-and-white picture showed the rover's empty lander and a parallel set of tracks leading away from it, traced in the pebbly martian dirt 128 million miles from Earth.

Fish fights flames, avoids frying, saves school

EAGAN, Minn. -- A smoke alarm summoned firefighters to a school in the middle of the night, but when they arrived the flames already had been put out. Dory took care of it. Dory is a fish, a Betta kept in a vase on a desk in a third-grade classroom at Trinity Lone Oak Lutheran School. A forgotten candle started a small fire on the desk on Jan. 24, setting off the smoke alarm and shattering the fish bowl, spilling enough water to put out the flames. Firefighters found a few embers still glowing on the desk -- and Dory still alive in a puddle. Firefighters put Dory in a new container, and now the children in the class are excited about their little hero, said teacher Linda Krienke.

-- From wire reports

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