News In Brief

Consumer confidence broke a five-month slump this month, staging a sharp rebound in the face of an improved US economic outlook, the Conference Board reported. The board said its index of leading indicators jumped from 109.2 in February to 117 this month, eclipsing expectations of a decline.

President Bush was to clarify his economic outlook with a major speech describing an economy he believes needs his proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut as a jump start, aides said. In a speech at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Bush also was expected to indicate preferences for ways to make the tax cut retroactive to Jan. 1. Senate Republicans last week agreed to give back $60 billion this year, although they did not decide whether to support a tax rebate or hand out the money as part of Bush's larger tax-cut plan. Meanwhile, Bush's leading economic adviser told USA Today that Bush may delay by two years pushing for repeal of the estate tax to offset the costs of making more of the tax cuts effective this year.

The Supreme Court is to take up today the issue of whether seriously ill patients may use marijuana for medicinal purposes. The issue has been mired in legal battles since Californians passed a ballot initiative in 1996 legalizing its medicinal use. Similar measures were adopted in eight other states. Advocates say the cannabis plant is an effective drug for treating pain and other symptoms. Opponents argue marijuana is a narcotic that must remain banned. The court will hear a federal government appeal of a ruling that would allow California marijuana clubs to resume service for patients who prove cannabis is a medical necessity.

Women account for 39 percent of smoking-related deaths - more than twice the proportion since 1965, according to a new surgeon general's report. One in 5 women smokes, the report said, and 30 percent of high-school senior girls said they had smoked in the previous month. Surgeon General David Satcher warned that increased tobacco industry marketing could derail recent progress in fighting the habit and urged a new push to discourage smoking by females. Studies show tobacco ads influence the decision to smoke - and cigarette companies for decades have targeted women.

Newly released court documents unveiled more evidence, including matching footprints, that appears to connect two Vermont teenagers to the murders of Dartmouth College professors Half and Susanne Zantop. Robert Tulloch and James Parker are accused of stabbing them Jan. 27. Authorities say DNA evidence links one victim's blood to a military-style knife found in Tulloch's home. A witness also told police he saw a youth speed away from the Zantop residence in a green station wagon, similar to one owned by one of the suspects.

The number of Americans who disapprove of Bush's job performance increased by 10 points in the last month - to 33 percent, according to a new ABC-Post and CNN-Time poll. About 61 percent of those surveyed said Bush cared more about corporate interests than working people. But almost 6 in 10 said they still approve of his work overall. Half approved of his handling of the economy and environmental issues, with slightly more supporting his handling of international issues.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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