News In Brief

Astronomers said they had discovered the first solar system outside our own - three massive planets orbiting a sunlike star, Upsilon Andromedae. The planets were not thought to be hospitable to life.

The House approved - voting along almost-straight party lines - a $1.7 trillion GOP budget for fiscal 2000, and the Senate was expected to follow suit. The nonbinding blueprint for tax and spending priorities calls for nearly $800 billion in tax cuts over 10 years. Some Democrats said it would likely be tossed aside later this year because Congress would be unable to finance government under its tight restrictions.

Advocates of new campaign-finance laws collected the signatures of 175 House Democrats on a petition that would force an early vote on the Shays-Meehan bill. They need 218 names to force the issue to the floor. Rep. Jim Turner (D) of Texas accused GOP leaders of trying to repeat a "run out the clock" strategy that thwarted debate on the bill last year.

The House voted along party lines to let local officials review and challenge household counts, jurisdictional boundaries, and other census results. The White House threatened to veto the bill, approved 223 to 206. Republicans said the measure would make the 2000 census more accurate. Democrats said it was designed to block use of statistical sampling. Census Bureau Director Kenneth Pewit said the legislation would disrupt his ageny's schedule and reduce the accuracy of the census count.

Two Democratic senators called on the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to resign, and Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona said he would immediately introduce a bill to place the IOC under the Federal Corrupt Practices Act. The act forbids bribery of foreign officials. During a Commerce Committee hearing, Ernest Hollings of South Carolina and Richard Bryan of Nevada blamed Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC chief, for "a culture of corruption" that had tarnished the Olympic Games. Some members of McCain's panel seemed offended that Samaranch, who said he had scheduling problems, had not attended their hearing on the Olympics scandal.

Republicans responded cautiously to President Clinton's outline for Universal Savings Accounts as a supplement to Social Security. Senate Finance Committee Chairman William Roth (R) of Delaware called it "a good starting point." Republicans generally prefer returning money to taxpayers through a series of cuts. The president's plan would give participating low- and moderate-income people a $300 tax credit. The government would also match up to $350 the voluntary contributions made by such workers.

US military bases were stepping up security as the FBI investigated a Serb-language letter faxed to several Eastern Orthodox US churches and urging terrorist strikes. As a result, in part, of the letter, the FBI said it had warned base commanders of a "credible threat" against military personnel in the US.

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