USA

Senate backers of the campaign finance reform bill were hoping to muster the 60 votes needed to avoid a likely filibuster and send the measure to President Bush for his signature. The Senate passed similar legislation last spring by 59 votes. The House bill, known as Shays-Meehan, would overhaul the way political campaigns are funded by banning "soft money," the unlimited funds contributors can give to political parties, among other provisions. It was approved early yesterday by the House after a grueling 16-hour debate. Above, co-sponsor Rep. Martin Meehan (D) of Massachusetts (r.) compares notes with Rep. James Turner (D) of Texas. (Story, page 1; editorial, page 10.)

A House panel was due to hear from Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins as the Monitor went to press. In memos to former chairman Kenneth Lay and other officials of the energy-trading giant, Watkins, a mid-level manager, warned about the complex partnerships allegedly used by Enron executives to hide massive losses and enrich themselves.

Before leaving this weekend on a trip to Asia, President Bush was to unveil his counterproposal to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change approved in 1997. The pact obligates large industrial nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses - believed to contribute to global warming - to 1990 levels by 2010. Bush has rejected it as unfair and harmful to the US economy. Instead, his plan would use $4.6 billion in tax incentives over five years to encourage businesses, farmers, and individuals to reduce pollution. (Story, page 3.)

New claims for unemployment benefits fell for the second weekin a row, the Labor Department reported. Jobless claims dropped by a seasonally adjusted 8,000 to 373,000, their lowest level since Jan. 19, indicating that companies may be easing back on layoffs.

A massive drug raid in their tiny town stunned the residents of Carthage, Mo. Some 180 local, state, and federal officers took part in the raid, which began early Wednesday and resulted in 47 arrests and the seizure of more than 100 weapons. It followed a two-year investigation into a distribution network for cocaine, methamphetamines, and marijuana from California, Texas, and Guatemala.

With a gold in the men's combined event, Kjetil Andre Aamodtof Norway raised his personal medal tally to six at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics - a record in Alpine skiing. South Korean speedskater Ko Gi-hyun, meanwhile, became the youngest individual medalist in short-track history, taking gold in the women's 1,500 meters at 15. (Related stories, pages 1, 4, 12.)

Country music legend Waylon Jennings, who died Wednesday in Chandler, Arizona, was known for his black attire and outlaw image, but many of his contemporaries in the industry remembered him fondly. "Waylon Jennings was an American archtype, the bad guy with a big heart," said singer-actor Kris Kristofferson. Among his 16 No. 1 hits were "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," and "Good-Hearted Woman," both duets with Willie Nelson.

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