News In Brief

The narrowly divided 107th Congress will be sworn in today, beginning its first session amid vows of bipartisanship. Yet there is already division over some of President-elect Bush's priorities, including a proposed $1.3 trillion tax cut and a plan to reform education. Democrats oppose the tax proposal, saying surpluses should go to pay down national debt. Bush's education plan would test students aggressively, cut funds for schools that fail, and probably will include school vouchers, strongly opposed by Democrats. Bush also has said he will put forward an energy policy to boost domestic oil production. Democrats will likely raise environmental concerns.

President Clinton was to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Washington to clarify the US-proposed framework for a Mideast peace agreement. An Arafat spokesman called his trip "decisive." Last week, Israel accepted Clinton's proposals as a basis for settlement if Arafat accepted them. The plan would give Palestinians a state, about 95 percent of the West Bank and Gaza, and limited control in East Jerusalem. Arafat seeks Israeli recognition of a "right of return" and demands sovereignty over East Jerusalem.

Manufacturing activity fell in December for the fifth month to its lowest level in nearly a decade, an industry group reported. The news offered yet another sign of a weakening US economy. The National Association of Purchasing Management said its purchasing index fell to 43.7 percent in December, down from 47.7 in November. An NAPM index above 50 signifies manufacturing growth; below 50 means contraction.

Federal prosecutors were to begin jury selection today in New York in the trial of four men accused of the deadly bombings of two US embassies in Africa. They are among some 24 men thought to have engaged in terrorism after pledging loyalty to Osama bin Laden, an exiled Saudi who is accused of orchestrating the bombings. Prosecutors hope to prove bin Laden and his followers conspired against Americans through terrorist networks worldwide. Defendants, including Wadih El-Hage, a Lebanon-born US citizen, maintain they are innocent.

Federal health officials say they will allow Medicare beneficiaries to obtain information on doctors who may have made errors, a move that reverses a policy that kept mistakes secret for more than 20 years, The New York Times reported. Under new rules by the Department of Health and Human Services, patients will be told if care has met proper standards and if there has been action against doctors or hospitals. Under current law, medical groups cannot release information on a doctor without the physician's consent.

There are 68 conflicts worldwide, slightly more than 1999, that will demand the attention of President-elect Bush as he shapes foreign-relations strategies, a study by the National Defense Council Foundation said. The report said that in many cases, the US military might not be up to the task of intervention. The study also noted a dangerous increase in instability in South and Central Asia.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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