News In Brief

President Bush was to unveil his plan to reform the US education system, a cornerstone of his election campaign. The proposal aims to increase student-testing regimens, hand districts more control over federal dollars, and make sure all children can read by age 9. It also includes a controversial provision for vouchers, in which failing schools would have three years to get up to standards before some parents would be given $1,500 each to send their children to private schools.

A package of more than $1 trillion in tax cuts - one of Bush's other top legislative priorities - was introduced by two senators, Phil Gramm (R) of Texas and Zell Miller (D) of Georgia. The measure calls for an across-the-board reduction in tax rates, repeal of some estate taxes, and the elimination of the so-called marriage-penalty tax, which impacts couples filing jointly. The bill, however, is bound to become just the first step in a lengthy process for the proposal, which technically must originate in the House and has to be coordinated with completion of the budget.

Law-enforcement officers mounted a nationwide search for the last two members of the "Texas Seven" gang, after four of them were arrested and another killed himself in Woodland Park, Colo. The convicts, who broke out of a prison southeast of San Antonio last month, apparently had been living in the Colorado community since the beginning of the year. A search of their living quarters recovered 13 weapons that had been stolen from a store near Dallas Dec. 24, an official with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms said. The convicts are accused of killing a policeman in connection with that incident. Above, a SWAT team member in El Paso, Texas, inspects a van matching the general description of one allegedly taken by the two escapees who remain at large.

Hollywood studios began contract talks with unionized screenwriters, whose contract expires April 1. As a gesture of cooperation, studio heads - among them Disney's Robert Iger and DreamWorks studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg - attended the first negotiating session. The Writers Guild of America is demanding increased TV and movie residual payments and "creative rights" intended to give its members more prestige and control over projects. Both sides are preparing for a walkout, with studios accelerating production and scheduling TV "reality shows" that don't require scripts.

The Illinois Supreme Court set new rules to improve the state's capital-punishment system, following revelations that more death-row inmates have been freed than executed since 1977. The rules set minimum standards of training and experience for defense lawyers and prosecutors. Prosecutors also will have to make a "good faith effort" to notify defense attorneys of evidence that could help the defense. Last year, after the findings, Gov. George Ryan (R) suspended all executions indefinitely.

Former NFL player Rae Carruth was sentenced to at least 18 years and 11 months in prison for conspiracy in the shooting death of his pregnant girlfriend in Charlotte, N.C. Prosecutors alleged he set up the attack on Cherica Adams so he could avoid paying child support. A lawyer for Carruth filed notice of appeal.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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