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AROUND THE NATION

ELECTION CHIEF WILL BE ABSENT DURING VOTE COUNT

DENVER (AP) -- Colorado's top election official rushed to Arizona to be with her critically injured brother Monday and will be absent when the votes are counted in an election beset with confusion and fears of fraud.

Secretary of State Donetta Davidson said her top deputy and two other aides would oversee the election today in Colorado. Davidson went to Phoenix, where her brother was hospitalized in a
coma after a motorcycle accident Saturday.

She and Gov. Bill Owens expressed confidence in her staff's ability to oversee the election, despite a string of reports about voter registration fraud, ineligible voters and last-minute confusion about election rules. In addition, the counting of contested ballots is expected to take days and could delay election results.

"The plan is in place and the key decisions have been made," said Owens' spokesman, Dan Hopkins. The governor "feels very confident."

CORPORATE AUDITS BY IRS ARE DOWN, STUDY FINDS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The pace of corporate audits by the Internal Revenue Service continued to decline in the first six months of fiscal 2004, despite IRS pledges to crack down on tax violators, an analysis of government data shows. The IRS differed with the findings.

Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse said Monday that the IRS carried out 7,794 corporate audits from October 2003 through March 2004, down 26 percent from the pace set in fiscal 2003.

It said actual hours spent on examining corporate tax returns were running 30 percent below the 2003 rate.

IRS spokesman Terry Lemons questioned the findings, saying it was "wrong to make any kind of sweeping projections" based on the first six months of the year.

Many audits of large corporations are closed during the third and fourth quarters of the year, Lemons said, predicting the total audit rate will be up this year, "in stark contrast to what TRAC has."

UNIVERSITY'S LIBRARY BADLY DAMAGED IN FLOOD

HONOLULU (AP) -- Heavy rain sent water as much as 8 feet deep rushing through the University of Hawaii's main research library, destroying irreplaceable documents and books, toppling doors and walls and forcing a few students to break a window to escape.

Ten inches of rain fell in 24 hours starting Saturday morning in the Manoa Valley near Waikiki. Several cars were carried downstream when Manoa Stream overflowed its banks, and a school and church that were supposed to serve as polling places for today's election also were damaged.

Gov. Linda Lingle toured the university Sunday and declared Manoa Valley a state disaster area.

The library's ground floor was a jumble, with walls knocked down and furniture piled up, said librarian Diane Perushek.

"Our lowest level of the library, the ground floor, is decimated," Perushek said. "We're seeing what we can retrieve now."

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