News In Brief

Lawmakers were working on alternatives to a 10 percent income-tax cut favored by GOP leaders. Sen. Charles Grassley (R) of Iowa proposed a $100 billion, five-year plan to aid married couples and allow retirees to keep more earnings - while expanding tax credits for health care and housing. Sen. Paul Coverdell (R) of Georgia and Sen. Robert Torricelli (D) of New Jersey had developed plans to expand the 15 percent income-tax bracket and provide breaks to investors at an estimated 10-year cost of $500 billion. A 10 percent, across-the-board income-tax cut would cost at least $743 billion over 10 years.

The White House insisted that US spying in Iraq was designed to support arms inspections, despite a report that the data were collected without the knowledge of the UN. The Washington Post, quoting government sources and documents, had reported that US intelligence services spied on Iraq for three years without informing the UN arms-control teams used to disguise the work.

A group of lawmakers said they will push for US compliance with an antipersonnel land-mine treaty President Clinton has refused to sign. The treaty was drafted in Ottawa in 1997, took effect Monday, and has been signed by 133 countries and ratified by 66. The US has pledged to stop using land mines outside Korea by 2003 and in Korea by 2006, but the lawmakers said they would file bills to speed US compliance.

Commentator Patrick Buchanan officially declared his candidacy for the 2000 GOP presidential nomination at a rally in Manchester, N.H. Meanwhile, Texas Gov. George W. Bush was to unveil plans to set up a committee to explore a run for the White House. Announcements like the one Bush scheduled in Austin, Texas, allow potential candidates to begin fund-raising - and are seen as the key step toward launching a full-fledged campaign.

The Clinton administration was to withdraw its support for the independent counsel law and urge Congress to let the Watergate-inspired statute expire in June. Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder was scheduled to make the announcement before a House Judiciary subcommittee. Five years ago, the administration successfully urged Congress to renew the law.

Sales of new homes declined for a second straight month in January, the Commerce Department reported, sparking speculation that higher interest rates have begun to hurt the housing market. Following a 3.6 percent decline in December, sales dropped 5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 918,000 - well below the 975,000-unit rate forecast by Wall Street economists.

Americans posted their third consecutive annual record for bankruptcy filings, the Administrative Office of the US Courts reported. Filings by individuals increased by 3.6 percent to about 1.4 million; filings by businesses fell by 17 percent to about 44,000. Total filings were down 2.7 percent.

Many females mistakenly think they're overweight because of photos seen in fashion magazines, a survey of 548 girls in Grades 5 to 12 indicated. Two-thirds said they were influenced by magazine photos, and 47 percent said they wanted to lose weight because of them. But only 29 percent were actually overweight. The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

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