News In Brief

As the clock wound down to President Clinton's scheduled departure for Japan this morning, it appeared the Mideast negotiations at Camp David inched toward the possibility of some sort of deal. Israeli sources reported progress on the crucial issue of Jerusalem's status. Both sides also said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was willing to help Palestinian refugees financially and allow up to 150,000 to resettle in Israel under a family reunification program. Israel's parliament speaker, meanwhile, said there was the potential for a partial agreement under which his country would recognize a Palestinian state.

Two new public-opinion polls showed Al Gore closing the gap with George W. Bush. Surveys of likely, or at least registered, voters by CBS News and CNN-USA Today-Gallup each found the presidential candidates only 2 percentage points apart in a two-man race. Analysts attributed the shift to a flood of advertising by the Democratic National Committee and to increasing support from women and independents - especially after former Sen. Bill Bradley, who challenged Gore in the primaries, endorsed him last week. But a Gallup official cautioned the polls likely will continue to shift during the party conventions and the announcement of running mates.

On the campaign trail, Gore called for a constitutional amendment to create a bill of rights for crime victims. His proposal would entitle such people to be heard on sentencing, to be notified if a prisoner is released or escapes, to have their safety considered in determining probation or parole, and to receive restitution from a convict. Congressional Republicans accused Gore of playing election-year politics, noting that the White House opposed a bipartisan victims' rights amendment a few months ago.

A keenly awaited inflation report - which likely will help determine whether the Federal Reserve raises interest rates next month - found that consumer prices jumped in June, but chiefly because of surging energy costs. The Labor Department said the consumer price index rose 0.6 percent. If volatile food and energy costs were excluded, however, the increase was only 0.2 percent.

The House failed to pass a bill Monday that would have criminalized most forms of Internet gambling. Currently, more than 700 betting sites - many run out of foreign countries or offshore havens - operate without regulation, The Washington Post reported. The House measure attracted an unusual coalition of advocates and opponents, partly because the legislation contained exemptions that some argued would have furthered the gambling industry. The bill actually garnered a majority of votes - 245 to 159 - but under special rules, a two-thirds threshold was required. Proponents can try to push for another vote on a simple majority; the Senate already passed similar legislation last year.

Forty-four states plan to spend a total of $8 billion through next year from their settlement with Big Tobacco, in what will be first installment of a 25-year cash flow. Yet, less than 10 percent is going to smoking-prevention programs, a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures said. Instead, 38 states have appropriated $3.5 billion - 43 percent - to help low-income people get healthcare. Money also was earmarked for tax cuts, education, and assistance for tobacco farmers, among other things.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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