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News briefs

Senate Refuses to Scrap Democratic Tax-Cut Legislation

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON

The Senate rejected a move Thursday by a small group of lawmakers to scrap the Democratic leadership's proposed middle-income tax cut and instead use the money to reduce the federal budget deficit and help repair the nation's neglected infrastructure.

The measure was defeated by a vote of 57-39, but only after Senate Democratic leaders persuaded some of its sponsors to switch sides in order to block an effort by Republicans to support the liberals' proposal and ruin the Democratic tax-cut legislation.

Approval of the measure, which was sponsored by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., would have killed the middle-class tax cut, which is the centerpiece of the Democratic tax legislation. The cut would provide a $300-per-child tax credit for middle-income families.

Nevertheless, the close vote on the provision -- the legislation appeared certain to be approved before the Democratic leadership stepped in to prod some lawmakers to change their votes -- reflected widespread dissatisfaction with the tax cut, even in Democratic ranks.

Several lawmakers have said publicly they would have preferred to reduce the federal budget deficit than to vote for the modest tax-reduction for the middle class that the Democratic measure would provide. Many economists have expressed doubt that a tax reduction is needed.

FBI Probes NI* Allegations

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched an investigation into allegations that confidential documents relating to ongoing investigations of science fraud were stolen from the National Institutes of Health.

The FBI investigation, which was initiated at NIH's request, centers on Suzanne Hadley, who resigned last July as a senior official at the NIH's science fraud unit, the Office of Scientific Integrity (OSI).

Hadley is now employed at another division of NIH. But for the past several months, she has also been working part time -- with the approval of NI* -- for the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations chaired by Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich. Dingell has criticized the way in which the NI* has handled allegations of misconduct in science.

Hadley confirmed Thursday that she had been interviewed for 45 minutes Tuesday by an FBI agent. The agent, she said, told her that OSI officials believed that she had illegally obtained and leaked confidential OSI documents and that the alleged actions had seriously impaired the agency's ability to investigate science fraud.

Hadley said that she has received OSI documents since leaving her position at the science fraud unit, but that the information was publicly available. She would not comment on whether she had ever received confidential documents about ongoing investigations at OSI since leaving her job there, and she declined say whether she had ever given OSI documents to Dingell's subcommittee.

Ukraine Halts Movement of Nukes

The Washington Post

Moscow

Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk Thursday halted the shipment of tactical nuclear weapons from his country to Russia for dismantling, saying that Moscow has not provided adequate assurances that the arms will be safeguarded and destroyed as promised.

The decision, announced in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, appears to raise the stakes in Ukraine's widening political dispute with Russia by making Soviet nuclear weapons that were deployed on Ukrainian soil an explicit object of bargaining between the two former Soviet republics.

As a further illustration of worsening relations between the two Slavic giants, Ukrainian Minister of Defense Konstantin Morozov announced separately Thursday that Ukraine has assumed control of an airfield near Kiev that has planes equipped with nuclear weapons under the formal command of the Commonwealth of Independent States -- the loose political alliance that succeeded the Soviet Union.

Morozov said Ukraine seized Uzin Airbase -- but not the nuclear warheads stocked there -- because Commonwealth military leaders had banned Ukrainian servicemen stationed at the base from taking an oath of allegiance to Ukraine.

Ukraine and two other former Soviet republics pledged in writing last December that all tactical, or short-range, nuclear weapons on their territory would be transferred to Russia by July in exchange for a Russian promise that the arms would be safely stored and destroyed. But Kravchuk's decision now appears to put that timetable at risk.

Weather

Cold and Dry

By Michael C. Morgan
staff meteorologist

Colder weather that arrived late Wednesday will persist for the duration of the weekend into early next week. A series of weak cyclones will pass south of New England during the same period - giving us clouds and the slight threat of some light snow.

Friday afternoon: Partly cloudy and cold. Highs around 35F (2C).

Friday night: Clear and cold. Low near 20F (-7C).

Saturday: Partly cloudy and cold. High around 34F (1C), low 22F (-6C)

Sunday: Partly sunny and continued cold. High 35F (2C), low 20F (-7C).