News In Brief

The house moved ahead with debate on a possible deployment of US troops to Kosovo, despite appeals for delay from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Sen. Bob Dole. They had cautioned that a divisive House debate on a nonbinding resolution could undermine peace talks scheduled to resume outside Paris Monday. Nonetheless, the House scheduled a vote on whether to send 4,000 US troops to Kosovo as part of a NATO peacekeeping force, as proposed by President Clinton.

The US was involved in equipping and training Guatemalan security forces who murdered thousands of civilians in the nation's civil war, The Washington Post reported. The paper cited newly declassified intelligence documents. In a Jan. 4, 1966, memo, a State Department official described how he set up in the presidential palace a "safe house" that became the headquarters for Guatemala's war against leftist insurgents and their suspected allies. The Post report came as Clinton apologized in Guatemala for US aid to "widespread repression" during the 36-year civil war.

The US trade deficit soared to a record in 1998, as exports sagged in the midst of a sharp slowdown in the global economy, the Commerce Department reported. The current-account deficit swelled last year by $78.23 billion to an all-time high of $233.45 billion. That broke the previous record of $168 billion set in 1987.

GOP congressional leaders unveiled a plan to set aside all Social Security surpluses, starting next fiscal year. Their move was seen as a bid to upstage Clinton as protectors of the retirement program. He wants to use some of the surpluses for other purposes next year, repaying the fund later from general revenues.

A crackdown on airport security was ordered by the Federal Aviation Administration. In a letter to airport officials nationwide, the FAA complained that US agents were able to sneak through security doors at some major airports and board airplanes unchallenged. The letter from FAA aviation-security chief Cathal Flynn warned that it may be necessary to post guards at individual aircraft if security is not improved.

The House approved a bill that would prevent nursing homes from evicting Medicaid patients, who are generally less profitable for the homes than those who pay privately. The House voted 398-to-12 to approve the measure, which would allow homes that voluntarily withdraw from Medicaid to warn incoming private-paying residents that they might have to move if they become Medicaid beneficiaries. Quick Senate passage was expected.

After more than a week of negotiations, the Senate reached an accord on an education bill that would give schools more flexibility in spending US funds. As part of the deal, Republicans were to offer amendments on special education; Democrats were to file amendments on adding teachers and on after-school and dropout programs.

Senate Republicans said they would rework bills that would limit Y2K lawsuits against high-tech firms. The Justice Department and other critics said the measures gave companies too much protection at the expense of consumers. The legislation - introduced by the GOP chairmen of the Judiciary and Commerce committees - is designed to discourage frivolous lawsuits by setting up a 90-day "cooling off" period, capping punitive damages, and limiting the liability of company executives. Opponents of the measures said they might undermine efforts to prepare computers for the year 2000.

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