News In Brief

The House of Representatives was poised to pass a major chunk of President Bush's $1.6 trillion tax-relief package as the Monitor went to press. While most Democrats were opposed, majority Republicans predicted the 10-year, $958-billion cut would pass and move to the Senate, where little action is expected until May. Meanwhile, a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed 52 percent of respondents support the Democrats' preference for targeting cuts toward middle- and lower-income taxpayers to save money for debt reduction and education; 41 percent agreed with Bush's across-the-board plan.

The shuttle Discovery lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on a 12-day mission to replace the weary crew of the International Space Station with three fresh workers. The shuttle carried six astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut as well as a full load of supplies. Russian Yuri Usachev and Americans Jim Voss and Susan Helms, the first woman to live on the station, will stay there for 4-1/2 months.

The number of Hispanics living in the US has surpassed the black population for the first time, the Census Bureau reported. Its 2000 survey found 35.3 million Hispanics, or 12.5 percent of the total - an almost 60 percent jump over 1990. In contrast, the black population grew from 30 million to 34.7 million. Demographers, who didn't expect the two populations to achieve parity until 2003 or 2006, said immigration is primarily driving the shift.

An eighth-grade girl who allegedly shot a classmate in the shoulder during a feud at a Williams-port, Pa., parochial school was charged as a juvenile with attempted homicide and aggravated assault. No one else was injured in the incident. Since the Santana High School shooting in Santee, Calif., Monday, educators have reported a rash of school-related threats. In California alone, 16 students have been detained for threatening teachers or classmates, creating "hit" lists, or bringing weapons onto campus.

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether ex-President Clinton's half-brother sought $15,000 to help an Arkansas man secure a presidential pardon, the Los Angeles Times reported. The investigation involves Phillip David Young, a North Little Rock restaurateur who was convicted of illegally transporting game fish across state lines, the Times said. Young did not pay Roger Clinton the money, but prosecutors are seeking to determine if the latter broke the law by committing fraud, extortion, or solicitation of a bribe.

New claims for state unemployment benefits fell last week but still hovered at a level suggesting that employers' demand for workers has eased, the Labor Department reported. Initial applications declined by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 370,000 for the week ending March 3. The week before, claims shot up by 41,000, according to revised figures, a bigger increase than the government had estimated.

Bridges, roads, dams, and schools across the US are in "poor" repair, the American Society of Civil Engineers reported, suggesting it will cost $1.3 trillion over five years to fix the problems. Almost 60 percent of roads in urban and rural areas are in mediocre, condition at best, the ASCE study found. In addition, 29 percent of bridges are structurally deficient or obsolete.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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