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The most severe portion of hurricane Dennis was forecast to remain offshore, but high winds and surging tides were predicted for much of the Carolina coast. The storm was expected to turn north yesterday and then northeast later in the week. Saturday, Dennis hit the Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas with winds that approached 100 m.p.h., snapping palm trees, flooding roads, and cutting power lines.

Firefighters in Western states reported progress on containing blazes that had burned more than 200,000 acres. Nineteen large fires were burning in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Texas, although nine were expected to be contained yesterday. Critics said they demonstrate the need to thin public forests to prevent catastrophic fires. They urged government agencies to conduct more controlled burns and cutting to clear undergrowth.

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Presidential candidate Alan Keyes won Alabama's Republican straw poll against a field of nine other candidates, seven of whom were no-shows. Keyes came in first with 500 votes, followed by Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who garnered 458. Hatch was also at the GOP straw poll, the first in Alabama. Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who did not attend, attracted 421 votes; none of the other GOP candidates received as many as 125.

Bush embraced tougher gun-control measures, including raising the legal age for purchasing a handgun from 18 to 21. The GOP front-runner said he also supports efforts to ban large ammunition clips and instant background checks at gun shows, although those he favors are less restrictive than ones backed by congressional Democrats. Bush had previously rejected calls to toughen US gun laws, saying there were enough on the books and they simply needed to be enforced.

A federal judge modified his decision to block Cleveland's school-voucher program. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. ruled that elementary-school students who participated in the program last year may receive vouchers again this year to attend private schools. However, children new to the program won't be allowed to receive the state-supported tuition grants, pending the outcome of a lawsuit claiming the vouchers violate the constitutional separation of church and state.

An appeals court overturned kidnapping convictions against Republic of Texas leader Richard McLaren and one of his associates, saying there was insufficient evidence against them. Prosecutors were expected to appeal. McLaren and Robert Otto were serving a 99- and 50-year kidnapping sentences, respectively. In addition to that term, McLaren has been sentenced to 12-1/2 years in federal prison for taking part in a scheme to distribute worthless Republic warrants, which resemble cashier's checks. His group contends annexation of Texas was illegal - and refuses to recognize its institutions.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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