News In Brief

By , Judy Nichols, and Noel Paul

The Senate was widely expected to pass historic legislation granting permanent normal trade relations to China. Approval of the bill, which has been characterized as the most important trade legislation since the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement, would realize one of President Clinton's top foreign-policy objectives for his final year in office. The Senate vote caps a tumultuous ride for the measure, which the House approved in May after heavy lobbying from big business and fierce opposition by organized labor and human rights groups.

The House, meanwhile, passed legislation Monday that earmarks 90 percent of next year's projected $268 billion budget surplus for debt reduction. It passed overwhelmingly, 381 to 3. Democrats claimed that the approval reflected an election-year "battlefield conversion" by Republicans who lost their fight to reduce taxes for many married couples and for people who inherit large estates. The bill faces uncertain prospects in the Senate, where Republican leaders have expressed support for the idea but have made little effort to bring it to a vote.

In a key federal case, a jury ruled against two civil rights workers who had applied for jobs in order to test whether a company discriminates against minorities. The US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago had sent the case back to trial after deciding two black women working for the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago could sue JK Guardian Security Services because they were denied employment. Civil rights advocates criticized the jury's decision, pointing to federal legislation permitting the use of testing to document housing discrimination.

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Six Western governors, five of them Republicans, threw support behind President Clinton's plan to help states recover from the recent fire season that has burned more than 6.76 million acres of land. At a meeting in Salt Lake City with Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, the governors backed the administration's $1.6 billion proposal to pay for repairs and fire prevention programs, but said more funding would be needed in the future. In Colorado, meanwhile, firefighters expected to contain fully a blaze that had threatened hundreds of residents outside Boulder.

A plane with at least 14 people went down in waters southwest of Key West, Fla., after being hijacked from Cuba, authorities said. It had been low on fuel, an aviation official said, and Coast Guard rescuers were headed to the scene as the Monitor went to press. In recent years, a number of small aircraft have been hijacked in Cuba and flown to the US by political asylum-seekers.

This fall's apple harvest could be a bumper crop in the Northeast because of the summer's constant rain and cool temperatures, agriculturists said. In Vermont at least, a favorable yield would follow three years of disappointment.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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