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The House Judiciary committee was to launch today its own battle over gun control. Chairman Henry Hyde (R) of Illinois is expected to call for new, mandatory safety devices on handguns and background checks at gun shows in language similar to a bill approved earlier in the Senate - the first gun measure passed since Republicans took control of the Senate in 1994. The fate of Hyde's proposals is uncertain, even in his own panel, dominated on the GOP side by conservatives who don't share his views on gun control.

The National Association of Theater Owners promised photo-ID checks of young people wanting to see R-rated movies. The association - representing about 65 percent of the US commercial movie screens - made the commitment at a press conference with President Clinton. During a May 15 radio address, the president had asked the entertainment industry to stop showing guns in movie ads or in previews children see, to check IDs at R-rated films, and to review the movie-ratings system to make sure it shields children from too much gratuitous violence.

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Most of the Eastern half of the country was experiencing a second day of sweltering heat that pushed humidity to tropical levels in many areas yesterday. On Monday, record highs were recorded in Baltimore (98 degrees F.), Boston (97), Washington (98) and many other cities.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving urged Congress to include alcohol and underage drinking in a national advertising campaign designed to reduce drug use among young people. The nonprofit group said the House Appropriations Committee was expected to vote as early as this week on legislation that would open the billion-dollar media campaign to ads that discourage underage alcohol use.

The Pentagon once again postponed a test of its troubled THAAD antimissile defense rocket - this time due to a commercial power failure. A test in the sky over New Mexico was also postponed two weeks ago, when a target missile went out of control. A test is now scheduled for tomorrow, a Pentagon spokeswoman said. The anti-missile system, which is being developed by Lockheed Martin Corp., had six successive test failures prior to the two delays.

The Labor Department revised downward its estimate of first-quarter productivity. After initially saying worker productivity had increased at an annual rate of 4 percent during the first three months of the year, the agency reduced the estimate to 3.5 percent. Nonetheless, the productivity jump was a major factor in moderating wage inflation, officials said. Productivity, or output per hour of work, is a key measure of how much a nation's living standards are likely to improve.

Researchers in California said they've started the first comprehensive study of how computers and the Internet have changed society worldwide. Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for Communication Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the project will initially examine households in the US, Singapore, and Italy - and then expand to about 25 nations. In the US, the goal is to track people in some 2,000 households for much of the remainder of their lives.

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