News In Brief

President Bush was to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon today in Washington on the latter's first trip abroad since he was elected last month. Sharon seeks to confirm Bush's support for a cautious approach to peacemaking with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. He will likely press Bush to insist Arafat declare publicly that attacks against Israel must end. Only with reduced violence, Sharon has said, will Israel resume negotiations.

The Senate was to open two weeks of debate on campaign finance reform. Sens. John McCain and Russell Feingold, who are sponsoring one bill, said they were cautiously optimistic about its prospects for passage. Senators will decide whether to ban or regulate unlimited "soft money" contributions that go to parties instead of to candidates and examine restrictions on political spending, such as issue advertising. Many Republicans oppose such reform and some say it threatens political speech. Republicans took in $244 million and Democrats $243 million in soft-money contributions for last year's election.

The nation's retirement programs will not run out of cash as early as previously thought, thanks mostly to a robust economy for most of last year, Social Security and Medicare trustees said. The projected insolvency date of the Medicare trust fund was delayed by four years to 2029, and insolvency of the Social Security fund was put off by one year to 2038, the trustees' annual report said. It marked the fourth year that retirement programs lifespan grew.

The Supreme court turned down a former Ohio high-school student's argument that he had a free-speech right to wear Marilyn Manson T-shirts to class. The justices, without comment, upheld an appeals court ruling that school officials could ban T-shirts they determined to be "vulgar, offensive, and contrary to the educational mission of the school." Manson, a controversial rock band, is said to have a "pro-drug persona."

The shuttle Discovery left the International Space Station and is to land back on Earth tomorrow, bringing home the first crew of the orbiting outpost. The return to Kennedy Space Center in Florida marks the end of 4-1/2 months of duty for William Shepherd, the US commander, and his Russian crewmates, Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalyov. That crew made the station livable and capable of scientific research. New crew members, including astronauts Jim Voss and Susan Helms, will remain there four months.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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