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In a switch that would end Republican control of the Senate, Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont reportedly told Democrats he intends to abandon his party and become an independent. The switch would give Senate Democrats a majority for the first time since 1994. Jeffords, who has a moderate voting record, was to announce his decision at a news conference as the Monitor went to press. A switch would elevate minority leader Tom Daschle (D) of South Dakota to majority leader.

The House voted 255 to 173 to endorse a major expansion of federal testing requirements for elementary and middle schools, a step advocates call crucial to tracking the progress of students and achieving education reform. The proposal in a White House-backed education bill requires yearly reading and math testing for third- through eighth-grade students. The mandate enjoys majority support in the Senate, which is considering its own version of an education reform bill. Still pending is debate in both houses over whether students in failing schools should receive federal "voucher" funds for private-school tuition - a Bush administration plan that seems unlikely to pass.

Secretary of State Colin Powell opened a four-nation African tour with a stop in Mali. He also plans to visit South Africa, Kenya, and Uganda, where he will focus on the administration's priorities of providing relief to HIV-AIDS victims, opening markets to African goods, and finding the "right balance" for US participation in humanitarian missions. Above, Powell (l.) is greeted by Mali's Foreign Minister, Modibo Sidibe.

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Brushing aside complaints from China, Bush met in Washington with the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet and offered support for his efforts to initiate a dialogue with the Beijing government. China regards Tibet as part of its traditional territory and sees the Dalai Lama as a supporter of Tibetan independence. China's dismay was deepened by the presence on US soil of Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian.

California legislative leaders asked a federal appeals court to order regulators to cap wholesale electricity prices. The move by Senate President John Burton and House Speaker Robert Hertzberg came after unsuccessful lobbying by Gov. Gray Davis (D) and other lawmakers to get the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to impose strict price caps. The lawmakers, joined by the city of Oakland, say that continued blackouts this summer pose an "imminent threat" to the health and safety of Californians.

Magazine publisher and two-time presidential hopeful Steve Forbes said he is considering running for the US Senate from New Jersey. Forbes, who spent $38 million of his personal fortune on his first run for the White House and $37 million on his second, said he hasn't "closed the door" yet to a bid for the seat currently held by Robert Torricelli (D). Torricelli's term expires next year, and he has faced growing scrutiny over his personal and political finances.

CHRISTINE NESBITT/AP

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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