News In Brief

Senators were trying to forge a bipartisan strategy for ending the impeachment trial after dramatic back-to-back, 56-to-44 votes. One defeated a motion to dismiss the charges against President Clinton; the other approved the deposing of three prosecution witnesses. Hope for a speedy end to the trial rose after White House attorneys signaled that they might agree to forgo defense witnesses - if allowed the right to do so after hearing the testimony of the three prosecution witnesses.

Pope John Paul II left for Rome after urging US Catholics to oppose the death penalty as part of their pro-life agenda. Speaking to more than 100,000 people in a St. Louis indoor football stadium, the Pontiff called the death penalty both "cruel and unnecessary" - even in the case of "someone who has done great evil."

The Senate Armed Services Committee agreed to boost military pay and retirement benefits. The package calls for an across-the-board military pay increase of 4.8 percent beginning Jan. 1, 2000, and for future raises to keep pace with inflation. It also authorizes special retention bonuses. In December, the White House said it would ask Congress for an across-the-board military pay rise of 4.4 percent beginning next summer, followed by annual 3.9 percent increases for five years.

Clinton called for more than $800 million in new spending for job-training programs. The proposals included $190 million of increased spending in fiscal 2000 for adult-education and family-literacy programs, $350 million more for job-retraining assistance, and $303 million to increase youth employment.

The president proposed a $100 million fund to rebuild depleted salmon stocks in the Pacific Northwest. If approved by Congress, the money would be used to purchase conservation easements, plant trees to stabilize stream banks damaged by tree-cutting or development, map watersheds, and monitor the success of restoration activities.

An Arizona law that allows taxpayers to donate up to $500 to private schools and receive a tax credit was upheld by the state's Supreme Court, The Wall Street Journal reported. On a 3-to-2 vote, the court rejected arguments that the 1997 statute violates the separation of church and state by allowing public support of private religious schools. The law also allows tax credits for donations to public schools - but only to a maximum of $200. The decision was seen as a victory for proponents of school vouchers.

Miami and Bridgeport, Conn., became the latest local entities to sue the gun industry. The lawsuits, filed by Miami-Dade County and the city of Bridgeport, follow those previously filed by Chicago and New Orleans. They are seeking industry reimbursement of municipal costs associated with gun violence. Philadelphia Mayor Edward Rendell, who heads the US Conference of Mayors' task force on gun violence, said cities are primarily interested in improving the safety features on guns and changing the way guns are sold.

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