News In Brief
President Bush was to welcome his first foreign leader to the White House today: Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Officials said the two nations have a wide range of issues to discuss, including US plans for a national missile defense and a looming trade war over softwood lumber. Another possible topic was Bush's plan to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration.
To ease the number of flight delays at airports, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced speedier authorizations for new runways. Acquiring permits now can take more than 10 years. But a shorter time span could introduce other problems, environmentalists argued. Airports that could be first in line for quicker expansion include Dulles International Airport outside Washington and facilities in San Francisco and Atlanta.
Former President Clinton sought to allay criticism of several of his recent decisions. He and his wife, Hillary, said they would reimburse political friends for more than $85,000 in gifts - among them china, rugs, and flatware - that they elected to keep when they left the White House. Clinton also announced that his presidential foundation would pay half the rent of his New York office - a $600,000-plus a year cost, which was to have been taxpayer-financed. He also stood behind his pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, which is to be the subject of congressional hearings this week.
The Democratic National Committee elected as its next chairman a political fundraiser who has collected hundreds of millions of dollars for Clinton and others. Terry McAuliffe had been handpicked by Clinton to lead the party into the 2002 congressional races and the 2004 presidential contest. McAuliffe's selection came after former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson withdrew his name from consideration. The latter instead will head the DNC's new Voting Rights Institute, which will focus on reforms in light of last November's election.
To ease California's electricity crisis, Gov. Gray Davis (D) launched a $404 million conservation effort and signed a legislative package that commits $10 billion for the state to buy power. The measure was passed Thursday by the Assembly 54 to 25 after hours of vote-scrounging. Meanwhile, governors from at least nine other Western states were meeting to plot energy strategies amid concerns that California's problems could drag down the economy of the entire region. (Stories, pages 1, 5; editorial, page 10; opinion, page 11.)
In a sign Hollywood might be able to avoid a potentially devastating strike, negotiators for screenwriters and producers held contract talks beyond the union's original two-week deadline. Officials for the Writers Guild of America said sufficient progress had been made to warrant the extension, and a spokeswoman said negotiations would continue on a day-to-day basis. The current contract for the writers, who are seeking a significant increase in residual payments and more control of projects, expires May 1.
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