News In Brief

In what is likely to be cited as a key endorsement for the agenda of the new Bush administration, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told Congress that rising estimates of budget surpluses make room for a tax cut. His view appeared to be a shift from one he advocated earlier, in which he maintained that paying down the federal debt was the paramount fiscal policy goal. Now, however, Greenspan said a tax cut could "do noticeable good," especially in light of the weakening economy - which he said had slowed so sharply it may be "very close to zero [growth]." Greenspan declined to comment on specifics of President Bush's 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax-cut package. (Story, page 1.)

California, taking a key step in dealing with its energy crisis, wrapped up a electric power auction and indicated it had received contract offers from 39 bidders for long-term supplies. Gov. Gray Davis (D) said state officials would begin immediate negotiations with the bidders, who offered on average $69 a megawatt - not as low as the $55 that had been hoped for, but far lower than the $600 the state has paid sometimes on the spot market. California's two largest utilities have been on the brink on bankruptcy due to the soaring costs. (Related story, page 2.)

Bush had a cordial meeting with former rival Sen. John McCain, but the two made little progress toward reconciling their differences on campaign finance reform, reports said. Bush supports a ban on political donations from corporations and unions but not individuals - an exception McCain calls a big loophole. The two also differ on measures to restrict "soft money" - large, unrestricted donations to political parties.

Bringing the total to 11, the Senate approved one more Cabinet nominee: Norman Mineta as Transportation secretary. He is the only holdover from the Clinton administration, where he served as Commerce secretary. He also is the only Democrat in Bush's Cabinet.

Former Vice President Al Gore, denied the White House, will be a graduate-level journalism teacher at Columbia University this semester, the New York Ivy League school announced. He'll also lecture at two universities in Tennessee, his home state, he told The New York Times. Gore indicated he is taking some time to consider whether he'll attempt a return to politics.

In an unexpected move, the Georgia House voted to shrink the state flag's Confederate emblem to a tiny symbol. The new banner, approved 94 to 82 at the urging of Gov. Roy Barnes (D), came as civil rights leaders have threatened boycotts if the state didn't remove the emblem. The issue now heads to Georgia's Senate, where prospects are uncertain, but a vote is expected early next week.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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