Originally created 10/31/04

Across the southeast



Floridians pack polls to cast their ballots

MIAMI - More than 1.8 million Floridians have cast their ballots through early or absentee voting - nearly 2 times the number of people who voted early in 2000.

Polling places were packed Saturday as people continued to stream in to vote early, with some localities reporting lines several hundred deep and waits of up to 2 hours.

With early voting still available at polling stations Monday - and about 1.6 million requested absentee ballots still outstanding - officials expect the number of early voters to easily surpass 2 million.

New truck stops aim to reduce pollution

MEBANE, N.C. - Truck stops are going green.

At Petro Stopping Center in western Orange County, there's no need for truckers to leave their engines idling, spewing pollution into the air.

The drivers tether their cabs to thick yellow hoses that mount in their windows and provide satellite television, a computer, electricity and air conditioning.

The 58-space electrified truck stop at Exit 157 off Interstate 85/40 is part of an effort to reduce diesel emissions and fuel consumption along heavily traveled Interstate 85 in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The Mebane site is the first such truck stop in North Carolina.

At the electrified stop, truckers pay $1.40 per hour to hook up. But they save money by not idling their engines, which burn about a gallon of $2-plus diesel an hour.

Each electrified truck stop is expected to save 263,000 gallons of fuel a year and prevent tons of pollution from entering the air, state environmental officials say.

State's high court to review tobacco case

MIAMI - A decade has passed since a group of sick and angry cigarette smokers banded together in a legal fight against the tobacco industry. A two-year trial produced the biggest award ever delivered by an American jury - $145 billion.

Now, in the midst of an evolving legal climate on tobacco-related lawsuits, Florida's Supreme Court is ready to review a lower court ruling throwing out both the money and a decision allowing the state's smokers to sue as one.

The two warring sides have been joined by an assortment of interested parties, including public health, public policy and business interests, for arguments set Wednesday.

Martin Feldman, a tobacco analyst with Merrill Lynch, considers the Miami case "one of the three most important challenges against the industry." The others are the Justice Department's racketeering claim currently on trial in Washington and a Philip Morris appeal challenging a $10.1 billion verdict in a light cigarette class action in Illinois.