Drinking-water bill goes to Obama

WASHINGTON - Congress on Friday sent President Obama a bill that would significantly reduce exposures to lead in drinking water.

Lead contamination can pose serious health risks, particularly to pregnant women and children. It has been linked to such problems as kidney disease, hypertension, reduced IQs in children, and brain damage.

The House approved the bill, 226-109. The Senate approved it earlier by voice vote.

The bill would set federal standards for levels of permissible lead in plumbing fixtures that carry drinking water, with allowable lead content going from the current federal level of as much as 8 percent to 0.25 percent. It limits the amount of lead that can leach from plumbing into drinking water. The bill takes effect 36 months after it is signed into law. - AP

NASA test-fuels shuttle Discovery

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA fueled the shuttle Discovery at the pad Friday, not for a flight but rather for tests to help understand mysterious cracks that appeared in its external fuel tank during a launch attempt last month.

Discovery, awaiting its final mission, is grounded until at least early February because, while the cracks have been fixed, engineers still do not know what caused them.

The concern is that cracks could cause chunks of foam to pop off and, in the worst case, slam into Discovery at liftoff. A large slab of foam doomed shuttle Columbia in 2003.

In orbit, meanwhile, the International Space Station got three new residents Friday with the arrival of a Russian Soyuz capsule. The station is now back to a six-person crew: three Russians, two Americans, and one Italian. - AP

Panel set to study detainee treatment

NEW YORK - A nonpartisan legal think tank plans to study U.S. treatment of terrorism detainees, partly out of concern that the country's policies lack clarity and can be manipulated to permit abuse or torture in dangerous times, members of a task force appointed to conduct the study said Friday.

Eleanor J. Hill, one of three chairpersons on the Constitution Project's new panel, said that events after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, such as the abuse by American troops of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and complaints of detainee torture, would be one focus of the study.

Former FBI Director William Sessions, former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R., Ark.), a retired Army general, and a retired appeals court judge are among 11 people selected for the task force, which meets for the first time in January, said Virginia Sloan, president of the Constitution Project. - AP

Elsewhere:

Transocean Ltd., whose Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico in April, must turn over safety records to the U.S. government, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Crystal Mangum, 32, the woman who authorities said falsely accused three Duke University lacrosse players of rape four years ago, was convicted Friday in North Carolina of misdemeanor child abuse and damaging property. A mistrial was declared on a felony arson charge. The case stems from a confrontation with her live-in boyfriend.