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News In Brief

By CompiledSuzanne MacLachlan and David Mutch / July 7, 1995

The US

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The government's main forecasting gauge of future economic activity, the Index of Leading Economic Indicators, declined a widely predicted 0.2 percent in May. It was the fourth-straight decline, the first time that has happened since the 1990 recession. This latest evidence of a serious slowdown came as the Federal Reserve's monetary policymakers were meeting to determine whether to lower short-term interest rates to stimulate the economy. An announcement was expected late yesterday. The number of Americans seeking first-time jobless benefits, meanwhile, remained unchanged last week at at 369,000, the Labor Department reported. The number of people receiving benefits, however, climbed to the highest level since last July.

House tax-writers next week will consider 230 tax breaks ranging from the popular - a charitable contributions deduction for the 70 percent of Americans who don't itemize - to the arcane - a repeal of the gas-guzzler tax on stretch limousines. House Ways and Means chairman Archer promised he will oppose anything that amounts to targeted tax relief or that costs too much. Among the biggest changes proposed are allowing tax-sheltered savings accounts for education expenses and phasing out the excise tax on luxury autos.

President Clinton was to devote an address at Georgetown University in Washington yesterday to his ongoing theme of returning civility to daily life. Aides said the president wants to urge people to take responsibility for their actions and come together to build a better country, denouncing hatred and violence. He argues that government can, and should, help Americans prosper, but individuals must also help themselves and their community. Clinton has played on the theme before, at an Arkansas fund-raiser last month and in his State of the Union address.

The Clinton administration, which promised two years ago to lessen big-money influence in politics, yesterday defended the Democratic Party for offering presidential dinners and other perks to major donors. Public interest groups accused the White House of peddling access to the Oval Office. In a Democratic National Committee letter, $100,000 donors are promised two dinners with the president; a $1,000 donation gets a social invitation with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton; and $50,000 buys a reception with Clinton.

Civil-rights activist Jesse Jackson said he might consider running for president in 1996 as an independent candidate. Jackson told CNN's ''Larry King Live,'' hosted by former New York Governor Cuomo, that running as an independent would buy him more time since only four states require independent candidates to file their data before July 1996.

Senator Packwood's decision to waive his right to a hearing on charges of ethical misconduct left the determination to the Senate Ethics Committee's three Republicans and three Democrats. So far, one committee member has called for a public hearing and another, a Democrat, has signaled his support.

California's leading politicians pressed Clinton to reject a base-closing compromise plan. Clinton is considering a Pentagon proposal that attempts to preserve some jobs at McClellan Air Force Base in California. The Sacramento-area base is slated for shutdown. Senator Feinstein, for one, has demanded that Clinton reject the plan outright, saying it doesn't guarantee that the jobs will stay in California.

Attorneys for bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh asked for a hearing on claims the government has leaked secret grand jury information and kept witnesses from talking. The motion is similar to one filed by attorneys for Terry Nichols but rejected by a federal judge last week for lack of evidence.

Astronauts and cosmonauts conducted a final round of medical experiments yesterday while crewmates prepared the shuttle Atlantis for its return to Cape Canaveral, Fla., today. (Stories, Page 3.)

A Miami lawyer, Daniel S. Pearson, was named independent counsel to investigate the finances of Commerce Secretary Brown. He'll investigate whether Brown improperly accepted nearly half a million dollars from a business partner and whether he deliberately filed inaccurate financial-disclosure statements.

The World

Contradicting Israeli claims, PLO leader Arafat said yesterday that Palestinian elections will not take place until all Israeli troops leave the West Bank. Arafat's comments were echoed by a senior Palestinian negotiator who said the PLO never agreed to elections before a complete pullout, as Israel contended. Earlier, Israeli Foreign Minister Peres said he and Arafat had agreed to a phased Israeli withdrawal from parts of the West Bank over two years, starting with four major towns before Palestinian elections this year.