Ford Motor Co. recalls almost 800,000 vehicles

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Ford Motor Co. recalls almost 800,000 vehicles

DEARBORN, Mich. -- Ford Motor Co. is recalling nearly 800,000 pickups and sport utility vehicles because the cruise control switch could short-circuit and cause a fire under the hood.

Yesterday's recall affects about 792,000 Ford F-150 pickups, Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators from the 2000 model year. Also affected are 2001 F-Series Supercrew trucks made at the same time.

Ford will notify owners of the recall next month, and dealers will deactivate the cruise control switch free and fix it later, once the company has an adequate supply of replacements.

Supreme Court lifts stay of execution in Conn.

HARTFORD, Conn. -- The U.S. Supreme Court lifted a stay of execution yesterday for a serial killer who wants to be put to death, but another court order continued to block what would be New England's first execution in 45 years.

The high court, without comment, voted 5-4 to lift the stay, but a temporary restraining order blocking the execution of Michael Ross remains in effect. The state will ask a federal appeals court to throw out the restraining order today.

Ross, on death row for strangling four young women and girls in Connecticut in the early 1980s, fired his public defenders last year and gave up any remaining appeals. The public defender's office and Ross' father have tried to block the execution, saying Ross is not competent to accept his execution.

Government eases flu vaccine restrictions

ATLANTA -- Afraid millions of doses will go to waste, the government all but dropped its restrictions on the flu vaccine yesterday, encouraging states with ample supplies to offer shots to anyone who wants one.

The vaccine shortage from last fall has turned into a surplus because the flu season has been mild and because many people were scared off by the prospect of long lines at clinics.

As a result, the government has been backing away from restrictions that said flu shots should be reserved for elderly people, babies and those with chronic medical conditions.

The government stopped just short of dropping all restrictions because parts of the country do not have enough vaccine. Flu vaccine is newly formulated each season. Leftover vaccine cannot be saved and used later.

Moment of silence honors NASA's fallen astronauts

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA observed a moment of silence across the country and in orbit yesterday in memory of the 17 astronauts killed in America's three spacecraft tragedies.

Aboard the International Space Station, commander Leroy Chiao asked colleagues at Mission Control to pause with him to "honor our fallen."

A year ago, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe declared the last Thursday of every January a day of remembrance. The Apollo 1 fire took place on Jan. 27, 1967, the Challenger accident on Jan. 28, 1986, and the Columbia disaster on Feb. 1, 2003.

McGreevey acquaintance sentenced for mail fraud

NEWARK, N.J. -- A Democratic fund-raiser and acquaintance of ex-Gov. James E. McGreevey was sentenced yesterday to two years in prison for soliciting $40,000 in cash and political contributions in return for his help in a land deal.

McGreevey was not charged in the case involving David D'Amiano, but it was one of several scandals swirling about the governor before his announcement that he was gay, had had an affair and would resign.

D'Amiano, 45, pleaded guilty in September to two counts of mail fraud.

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