News In Brief

The president's State of the Union address calls for using all US budget surpluses over the next 15 years to bolster Social Security and other federal programs, the White House said. The proposal would use about 62 percent of the extra money for Social Security, 11 percent for new government-subsidized retirement savings accounts, 15 percent to strengthen Medicare, and 11 percent for military and other domestic programs.

Fewer than one-third of Americans are paying "very close attention" to the Senate trial of President Clinton - and two-thirds want him to remain in office, a Pew Research Center poll indicated as White House lawyers prepared to begin his defense. Seventy-six percent of the survey's respondents dismissed the Senate proceedings as mostly bickering. The role of Republicans won the approval of 32 percent. The Democrats had 44 percent approval, Clinton 45 percent, and the news media 35 percent.

Use of witnesses in the impeachment trial could extend the proceedings indefinitely, Senate minority leader Tom Daschle suggested. "Once we say we have to have witnesses, then it seems to me we've given up the ability to tell the House or White House how to present their case," he said. The comment was interpreted as a warning that Democrats may not cooperate with a GOP effort to allow witnesses but strictly limit the number.

A congresswoman called for hearings on domestic violence in the armed forces, saying she will introduce legislation to force the military to change the way it treats offenders. The announcement by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D) of New York came a day after a CBS TV program said the military routinely fails to punish service members convicted of domestic violence.

The Supreme Court refused to make it easier for the biggest local telephone companies to break into the $90 billion long-distance market. The court, without comment, rejected appeals in which three of the five regional Bell firms - SBC Communications, US West, and Bell Atlantic - challenged special hurdles Congress placed in the way of their offering long-distance service in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

In other actions, the high court agreed to resolve a dispute between Kansas and Nebraska over the use of water from the Republican River, refused to revive a 1994 defamation lawsuit that Operation Rescue and three of its leaders filed against Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts for linking the antiabortion group to murder and violence, and refused to revive a lawsuit that would have forced Ticketmaster to pay triple damages for alleged overcharges in ticket sales.

Some 100 people protested a Philadelphia ordinance that sets a $20 penalty for sitting or lying on a public sidewalk for more than an hour - and mandates a $100 fine for aggressive panhandling. A report released this month by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty says many US cities are tightening restrictions on the use of public space.

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