News In Brief
Although various reports said there was no breakthrough at the Camp David negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, sources close to the summit said progress had been made and that a framework for a final peace agreement could be reached within days. The sources, who said there had been forward movement on the issue of Jerusalem, reported growing optimism among the Palestinian team, which generally has been cited as the most pessimistic. Officials for the two sides said the talks could continue for a total of two weeks; after that, Israeli Prime Minister Barak needed to return to address political upheaval at home, a spokesman said.
Lawyers were to return to a Miami court today to discuss the next steps in the landmark class-action suit against the tobacco industry. The cigarettemakers, who have vowed to appeal the unprecedented $145 billion punitive verdict handed down Friday, are likely to renew mistrial motions deferred by the judge during trial. They're also expected to ask circuit Judge Robert Kaye to apply Florida's four-year statute of limitations to void the $5.8 million compensatory award for one of the plaintiffs. Once Kaye enters a final judgment, he must order the industry to put up $100 million during appeals - as prescribed by a law enacted during the trial - or 115 percent of the verdict under the old law.
Further proceedings also are scheduled for the lawsuit against the federal government for its actions in the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. But after an advisory jury determined Friday that the government bears no responsibility for the deaths of some 80 Davidians, a disheartened lead counsel for the plaintiffs said he doesn't plan to file any more documents. US district Judge Walter Smith, who will issue the final ruling and doesn't have to follow the jury's recommendation, said he will take up one of the most contentious issues Aug. 2: whether federal agents fired at sect members at the end of the siege.
President Clinton pledged to veto an "irresponsible" repeal of inheritance taxes, a measure the Senate passed 59 to 39 Friday. The bill, which passed the House last month, would cut the top 55 percent rate for estate taxes next year and then gradually phase out all others by 2010. The cost to the government was estimated at $105 billion during the next 10 years, rising to $750 billion during the following decade.
On the other hand, Clinton renewed his offer to sign a bill eliminating the so-called marriage-penalty tax if Congress would pass a plan for Medicare prescription drug coverage. But Republicans refused to link the two issues. The Senate opened debate Friday on legislation dealing with the marriage issue - a 10-year, $248 billion measure that essentially would cut taxes for all married couples by adjusting their tax brackets and by increasing their standard deduction to twice that of single taxpayers. Votes are expected this week; the House already has passed a similar bill.
Ending a dispute that could have contributed to flight delays, commercial airline pilots dropped their opposition to certain landing procedures. Pilots had safety concerns about increasing the use of "land and hold short operations" - when aircraft land and stop on long runways before an intersection with another strip on which a plane will be landing or taking off. Under a compromise, air-traffic controllers will, among other things, not clear a private plane to land on a runway intersecting with one being used by a commercial passenger airliner, The New York Times reported.
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