News In Brief

Pakistan's premier agreed "to take concrete steps" to defuse a violent standoff with India over Kashmir. The pledge from Nawaz Sharif came in a joint statement after a three-hour meeting in Washington with President Clinton. One US official told reporters: "Our understanding is that there will be a withdrawal of the [Pakistani] forces." In the joint statement, Clinton urged an immediate end to hostilities once Pakistan acts.

The president was to begin a cross-country tour of pockets of deeply rooted poverty. Accompanied by business leaders, lawmakers, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Clinton planned to promote private investment in poor areas and outline legislative proposals to encourage it. The four-day itinerary includes stops in rural Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta; East St. Louis, Ill.; south Phoenix; the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles; and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

A day before the president left Washington, congressional Republicans announced tax proposals designed to encourage investment in areas left out of the current economic boom. House Speaker Dennis Hastert wrote Clinton, urging his support of the "bipartisan" American Community Renewal Act, which would use tax breaks to help 100 communities create jobs, encourage personal savings, foster home ownership, and clean up neighborhoods on former industrial sites.

The Secret Service may require new agents to sign pledges not to talk about what they see and hear while protecting a president, the head of the agency said. Brian Stafford, who became director four months ago, also told CBS that he will urge Congress to exempt agents from being subpoenaed and forced to testify, as they were by independent counsel Kenneth Starr during his probe of the Lewinsky matter.

A coalition of groups called for a more independent TV-ratings oversight board. People for Better TV, which includes the National Council of Churches, the National Organization for Women, and the NAACP - said the Federal Communications Commission should replace the present panel with one that would not be dominated by television networks. The conservative Family Research Council joined the call for a new board, saying the industry's standards are not those of mainstream Americans.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush defended his Vietnam-era stint as a National Guard pilot, saying he received no special treatment. The GOP presidential front-runner was responding to Los Angeles Times and Dallas Morning News articles suggesting he became an officer and pilot in the Texas Air National Guard after completing basic training in the late 1960s even though he lacked credentials other candidates possessed.

A white supremacist who targeted minorities in a deadly shooting spree committed suicide during a high-speed chase in Illinois, the FBI said. Officials said they believe Benjamin Nathaniel Smith began drive-by shootings in Skokie, Ill., Friday, killing a black former college basketball coach and wounding six Orthodox Jews. He is suspected of firing at Asians and blacks in two Illinois cities Saturday and killing a Korean Sunday outside a church in Bloomington, Ind. Smith was a mem- ber of the World Church of the Creator, a white-supremacist group based in East Peoria, Ill.

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