President Bush said he will sign a reduced, $350 billion tax-cut package once Congress approves it, although the amount is less than half the $726 billion he'd requested. Bush spoke after meeting with Republican leaders of the House and Senate on the compromise legislation, which was expected to pass before the Memorial Day recess. The Senate vote may be close, however. Democrats are firmly opposed to the measure, which they maintain favors "the wealthy" by cutting taxes on capital gains and stock dividends.

In discussions that may ease their sharp differences over Iraq, Secretary of State Powell is to meet Friday with the French foreign minister in Paris to prepare for next weekend's Group of Eight summit. France is hosting the summit, and President Jacques Chirac said Thursday that it is an opportunity for reconciliation and for finding ways to revive the global economy.

Siding with tobacco firms, a Florida appeals court dismissed a $145 billion judgment against them Wednesday. The case, filed on behalf of an estimated 700,000 smokers, did not qualify as a class-action lawsuit and violated a state law prohibiting awards that would force a company into bankruptcy, the court ruled.

Aetna Inc. agreed to pay $470 million to settle a class-action lawsuit by more than 700,000 doctors and medical societies. The suit, in federal court in Miami, accuses several major healthcare providers of unfairly cutting payments and pressuring physicians to limit expensive tests and referrals for patients.

A home-schooled eighth-grader won the 15th annual National Geographic Bee in Washington Wednesday. James Williams of Vancouver, Wash., correctly identified Portugal as the former colonial ruler of India's Goa state. His prize: a $25,000 scholarship.

Federal and state authorities were investigating an explosion at Yale University Law School in New Haven, Conn. The blast, which occurred in a locked classroom late Wednesday afternoon, caused damage but no injuries.

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