News In Brief

The Nasdaq Composite Index was trading at its lowest level since December 1998 as the Monitor went to press, signaling further that investors are skeptical about a quick economic recovery. The Nasdaq fell below 2000, as Wall Street continued a sharp sell-off of high-tech stocks. Tech bellwethers Yahoo!, Intel, and Cisco Systems recently warned the economy will hurt their business in the coming months. Just a year ago, the Nasdaq peaked above 5000.

Key members of Congress were considering changes to President Bush's $1.6 trillion tax-cut package, with top Republicans in both the House and Senate supporting the addition of a capital-gains rate reduction from 20 percent to 15 percent. The move would cost $40 billion in the first five years, which an aide to one Republican called "economically feasible." Democrats said changes could cost Bush votes because they would add to the size of a tax cut. Meanwhile, in an attempt to gain support from centrists, Senate majority leader Trent Lott suggested that Congress could make a "midcourse adjustment" to the cut if projected surpluses don't materialize.

Healthcare spending in the US rose to a record $1.2 trillion in 1999, with prescription drugs accounting for almost 10 percent of the costs, federal economists reported. And total health spending will more than double to $2.6 trillion by 2010, in part because drug costs are projected to rise on average 12.6 percent every year. By 2010, the report said, prescription drugs' share will be 16 cents on the dollar, as an older populace asks for newer, high-priced medicines.

Bush plans to postpone part of his proposal to route more federal funds to church-based charities and may make revisions in light of criticism by religious conservatives, The Washington Post reported. Some critics say they worry that under the plan - which would allows such charities to compete for funds in 100 government programs - churches would be corrupted by federal regulations or that "objectionable" sects would be rewarded. Some facets of Bush's program would likely be implemented quickly, his aides said, including a plan to expand the charitable tax deduction.

The federal trial of an Algerian on terrorist conspiracy charges was set to begin in Los Angeles. Ahmed Ressam, reputedly a graduate of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden's Islamic training camp for terrorists, was arrested 15 months ago for allegedly bringing bombmaking materials into Washington State from Canada. Prosecutors aim to prove that Ressam's intention was to set off explosions at US millennium celebrations.

The largest gift yet donated to a public or private US university - $360 million - was given to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute by an anonymous donor, reports said. The Troy, N.Y., school, which has total discretion in its use, planned to more than double research activity and graduate enrollment in five years by creating programs in biotechnology and information technology.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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