News In Brief

The White House called on former Sen. Dale Bumpers to help wrap up its final day of defense in the impeachment trail of President Clinton. Bumpers, a gifted public speaker and longtime friend of the president, retired this year after representing Arkansas in the Senate for 24 years. Buoyed by the case presented by the defense, some Senate Democrats were talking about trying to force - possibly as early as Monday - a final up-or-down-vote on the two articles of impeachment.

The US wants to amend a 1972 arms-control treaty, but plans to build a limited defense against long-range missile attack whether Russia agrees or not, Defense Secretary William Cohen announced. He said the administration would like to proceed with talks to amend the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, even though Clinton has yet to determine whether such a system is technically feasible. It would reportedly not be built to protect the US from Russia - but from rogue states like North Korea that are developing advanced missile systems.

Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri is almost certain not to challenge Vice President Gore for the 2000 Democratic presidential nomination, political allies of the House minority leader said. Gephardt has not reached a final decision, but will soon make his intentions known, they said. Meanwhile, former Vice President Dan Quayle will form a committee in early February to explore a bid for the GOP nomination in 2000, The Indianapolis Star and News reported. The newspaper said Quayle would probably formally announce his candidacy a couple of months later.

Clinton was to propose several education-funding initiatives, White House officials said. They include: an additional $200 million next year for hiring 8,000 teachers, $35 million to provide 7,000 scholarships for outstanding students committed to teaching in high-poverty public schools, $18 million to extend a program for training and placing more than 3,000 retired military personnel to teach in public schools, and $10 million to train 1,000 native-American teachers.

Attorney General Janet Reno said she decided the US could sue the tobacco industry to recover the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses, but that a task force would determine when and where the case will be brought. Administration officials have said the lawsuit could seek hundreds of billions of dollars from the industry.

The man charged with solving its Y2K problem said the US government is coping well, but small businesses and other countries are falling behind in preparing computer systems for 2000. John Koskinen told a House Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee that more than 80 percent of federal systems would meet a March 31 deadline for being ready to begin final testing.

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