USA

Senate Democrats were ridiculing a House-passed package of tax cuts and unemployment aid aimed at stimulating the economy in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Majority leader Tom Daschle offered no guarantee of a vote, labeling the bill's business tax cuts too large and its jobless health insurance subsidies too weak. It appeared improbable that President Bush and Senate Republicans could muster the 60 votes necessary to prevent their opponents from blocking the bill. (Editorial, page 12)

Under tight security, the first person indicted in the Sept. 11 attacks appeared in federal court in Alexandria, Va., and was ordered held without bail. French national Zacarias Moussaoui is charged with conspiring to commit acts of terrorism, aircraft piracy, destruction of aircraft, use of weapons of mass destruction, murder of Americans, and destruction of US property. Four of the charges call for the death penalty, prosecutors said. Judge Leonie Brinkema, appointed to the bench in 1993 by President Clinton, will preside when Moussaoui is arraigned Jan. 2.

Attorney General Ashcroft reportedly has not recommended the death penalty for American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh, instead suggesting less- serious charges that would carry a maximum of 10 years in prison. The Wall Street Journal said the president has yet to decide on a course of action, and may charge Walker with a more serious crime for which he will face a military court-martial. The White House said a decision could be forthcoming before the end of today.

The economic boom that propelled much of the US in the 1990s left behind large pockets of poverty, the Census Bureau reported. While incomes rose in suburban counties in the West and South, at least one-third of residents in dozens of mostly rural counties lived in poverty in 1998. Counties in more isolated parts of the South and Midwest, and those along the US-Mexico border, remained worst off. Nationally, 19 percent of children lived in poverty in 1998, down from 23 percent in 1993, two years after the official start of the record economic expansion.

The official tally of people missing or killed in the World Trade Center attacks fell below 3,000, with New York authorities revising it to 2,992. The count originally was expected to be as high as 6,700. Several reasons have been cited for the steadily declining number, such as names being recorded more than once on official lists and overestimates from some foreign consulates of nationals from their countries believed to have been in the buildings. City officials also announced that the fires that toppled the center's twin towers and raged for more than three months have been reduced to hot spots under the remaining debris. A fire truck remains at the scene, however.

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