Air Traffic Control System Gets Test

Transportation officials plan to begin phasing in a heavily criticized air traffic control system over Philadelphia on Sunday in its first test in congested airspace.

The $1.3 billion STARS, or Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System, has been denounced as flawed by the union representing FAA employees who certify and maintain equipment. Federal Aviation Administration officials have been working all week to decide whether the system was ready to go.

Limited versions of STARS are in a handful of smaller airports such as El Paso, where air traffic controllers complained they sometimes couldn't tell the difference between a truck on the interstate and a plane on the runway, said Tom Brantley, spokesman for the Professional Airways Systems Specialists, which represents the people who maintain the system.

U.S. Oil Reserve

At All-Time High

The U.S. emergency crude oil stockpile has reached the highest level in its 25-year history, the Department of Energy said.

Oil deliveries this week raised the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to 592 million barrels, the largest amount of oil the reserve has stored since the government began stockpiling crude in 1977, the DOE said in a release.

The White House may tap into the reserve if a U.S. attack on Iraq, a member of OPEC, resulted in a disruption in oil supplies, especially if the conflict affected nearby oil fields in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

During the Persian Gulf War, the government sold 17 million barrels of reserve oil in January 1991 to ensure adequate supplies and stabilize the oil market.

Painkiller Linked

To Skin Diseases

People who develop a rash upon taking a new painkiller called Bextra should immediately stop the drug because it has been linked to some rare but life-threatening skin diseases, federal health officials warned.

The Food and Drug Administration has about 20 reports of serious reactions -- including the skin diseases Stevens-Johnson syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis and exfoliative dermatitis, as well as allergic reactions -- among Bextra users since sales began in March.

The FDA estimates about 800,000 to 1 million people had recently begun taking Bextra when the reactions were reported.

Congress Approves Kids' Internet Domain

Congress approved legislation to create a safe haven on the Internet for children, where parents can be assured Web sites are free of pornography and other material not suitable for youngsters.

The measure would make a ".kids.us" Internet domain that would be available within a year and monitored by a government contractor to ensure the material is appropriate for children under 13. The bill won unanimous approval from the Senate on Wednesday and the House yesterday. It now goes to President Bush, who was expected to sign it.

Administration Hopeful

On Argentine Economy

The Bush administration said Argentina's economic situation has improved slightly over the past six months and should not be set back by the country's failure to make a scheduled debt payment to the World Bank this week.

Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill said yesterday that the administration maintains hope that the International Monetary Fund and the government of Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde soon will be able to agree on an economic overhaul that will allow the IMF to resume lending to the cash-strapped country.

O'Neill said he did not believe Duhalde's efforts were harmed by Argentina's failure Thursday to come up with a full $805 million payment coming due to the World Bank. It made instead a partial $79.2 million payment on interest charges.

-- From News Services