News In Brief

An independent panel will assess damage from Chinese nuclear spying, CIA Director George Tenet said. He named retired Admiral David Jeremiah - a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who left the service in 1994 - to head the independent panel. He said others would be appointed later.

President Clinton called on the international community to pursue rapid debt relief that would result in forgiving $70 billion owed mostly by African countries. He announced the initiative at the opening of a US-Africa ministerial meeting at the State Department.

Sen. John Chafee (R) of Rhode Island said he would not seek reelection in 2000. Chafee is one of the dwindling number of moderate GOP senators.

Steve Forbes became the first person to announce a campaign for president on the Internet. The millionaire publisher, who tried and failed to win the 1996 GOP nomination, is the fourth Republican to formally announce a bid for the presidency in 2000 - after Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire, conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan, and former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander.

Plans to protect wild salmon stocks in waters from Washington's Puget Sound to Oregon's Willamette Valley were announced by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Officials said nine species were being added to lists of endangered or threatened species under a US law that makes it a felony to harm a listed species or its habitat.

Los Angeles was officially chosen to host the Democratic National Convention in August 2000. The announcement by Democratic National Committee chairman-designate Joe Andrew means Democrats will be meeting in the entertainment capital for the first time since nominating John F. Kennedy in 1960.

As Vice President Al Gore lined up endorsements from House minority leader Dick Gephardt and key Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire, new opinion polls found him trailing GOP front-runners George W. Bush and Elizabeth Dole. Surveys by CNN/USA Today/Gallup and ABC/Washington Post showed Gore trailing Bush by about 15 percentage points - and Dole by about eight.

The Marine Corps dismissed involuntary manslaughter and negligent-homicide charges against a Marine navigator facing court-martial in the deaths of 20 people killed when a military jet sheared lift cables near an Italian ski village last year. Prosecutors dropped the charges against Capt. Joseph Schweitzer after the jet's pilot, Capt. Richard Ashby, was acquitted March 4 of similar and other charges. The two men still face charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for allegedly conspiring to remove an in-flight videotape from the damaged plane and otherwise hampering an official inquiry.

Rescue crews searched for survivors of an Amtrak train derailment that killed at least 12 people and injured more than 100 others. The New Orleans-bound train, with more than 200 people aboard, left the tracks after slamming into a semitrailer truck at a crossing 50 miles south of Chicago.

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