News In Brief

Tens of thousands of women and families assembled in Washington on Mother's Day to demand stricter regulation of handguns. The scene at the Million Mom March was a blend of political activism and entertainment, complete with face-painters and a diaper-changing tent. A much smaller counter-rally, sponsored by the Second Amendment Sisters, was held nearby.

Meanwhile, a published report revealed that almost one in four Americans claim to have been threatened with a gun. The Washington Post/ABC news survey of 1,068 adults found that about one in 10 adults claim someone had taken a shot at him or her. The survey also found 45 percent of respondents report firearms are kept in their homes.

Fueled by high winds and drought conditions, the major fire near Los Alamos, N.M., continued to spread. The blaze, started by the National Park Service in a preventive measure, had burned more than 261 homes across 36,000 acres on its way to causing an estimated $1 billion in damage. The Los Alamos nuclear laboratory sustained significant property damage, but officials reiterated that its critical areas were unharmed. Meanwhile, crews said they've contained 50 percent of a 20,000-acre forest fire 200 miles to the south.

After The Washington Post reported that both China and Taiwan had asked the US to intervene in their ongoing dispute, the White House said it didn't want a direct mediation role. Instead, it encouraged the two sides to talk with each other, a spokesman said. Tension has been running especially high since Chen Shui-bian was elected president of Taiwan in March. His Democratic Progressive Party advocates independence from China, infuriating Beijing. Chen is to be inaugurated Saturday.

A House committee is scheduled to consider this week the possible repeal of a 3 percent excise tax on telephone service first enacted in 1898, and both Republicans and Democrats have said they expect it to be approved. The tax, which amounts to almost $5 billion annually, is targeted for repeal in the GOP's high-tech "E-Contract 2000" agenda. The measure is set for a full vote May 22 in the House, where analysts say momentum is building for passage.

California may become the first state to exempt public teachers from paying state income tax. The $3 billion proposal, which includes a separate $500 million teacher-incentive program, was announced by Gov. Gray Davis (D) prior to the state's budget revision to be released today. Under the plan, 280,000 public school teachers would be provided with a $500 to $1,350 tax break.

Estimates of the populations of several primate species are far lower than even a year or two ago, meaning some are on a faster track to extinction than previously thought, wildlife and zoo researchers from 12 nations concluded at a meeting in Lisle, Ill. They said orangutans, for example, are disappearing at a rate of more than 1,000 per year, with fewer than 15,000 remaining. The experts identified the most urgent threats as logging, hunting, war, and the impact of millions of impoverished refugees residing in the primates' habitat. Politically unstable regions of Africa and Asia are experiencing the most severe threats, scientists said.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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