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CALIFORNIA WILL ABANDON PUNCH-CARD VOTING SYSTEMS

State officials said Tuesday they would abandon use of punch-card voting systems similar to those that caused problems in Florida during last year's presidential election.

The Votomatic and Pollstar punch-card systems will be decertified in 2006, and could be replaced sooner, Secretary of State Bill Jones said.

Jones said the systems, currently in place in nine California counties, are outdated and can cause problems that include incompletely or incorrectly punched ballots.

Jones said he did not know how much replacement systems would cost. The Legislature last week voted to put a $200 million bond issue on the March ballot to help counties update their voting systems.

Amish man in rape case
will get sex treatment

CAMBRIDGE, Ohio (AP) -- In a rare case, an Amish man charged with raping two girls pleaded guilty to sexual battery and may spend five years in a sex offender treatment center.

Norman Byler, 69, of Birmingham, initially was charged with 11 counts of rape and gross sexual imposition involving two girls in his extended family. They were 3 and 5 at the time.

The case was a rare example of Amish crimes being prosecuted in secular courts, County Prosecutor Keith Plummer said.

An Amish bishop had ordered Byler shunned, and Byler's children had argued that further prosecution by secular authorities would do no good.

Byler told a judge that he had repented, saying he needed to be treated for a "nervous condition."

Role of caterpillars, trees,
weather seen in foal deaths

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- A survey of more than 130 horse farms supports theories that caterpillars, cherry trees and unusual weather played a role in thousands of foal deaths this spring.

The survey of 133 central Kentucky farms was done by University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center scientists and veterinarians from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Researchers have spent the past several months investigating the theory that mares ingested cyanide toxins from weather-damaged wild cherry trees, substances that may have been delivered through the caterpillars or their droppings.

This spring's unusual weather -- drought and unseasonable warmth, followed by heavy freezes -- is also considered a factor. There also was a higher than usual number of foal deaths during a similar weather pattern in the early 1980s.

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