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News briefs

House Narrowly Approves Tax Change Favoring Middle Class

The Washington Post

Washington

The House voted 221-209 Thursday to approve a Democratic tax package that provides relief for the middle class by raising taxes on the wealthy, but it took intense, last-minute lobbying by Democratic leaders to hold down defections and avert a humiliating defeat.

House leaders proclaimed the vote a victory for the middle class and "the death knell" for Republican supply-side economics. "That trend had to be turned back, and we had to move in a new direction," said House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.).

But 46 Democrats voted against the bill and many others reluctantly agreed to support the measure only after Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) and Gephardt personally intervened with warnings that the party would be ridiculed by President Bush if it failed to act.

Russia Adopts Economic Reform

Los Angeles Times

Moscow

Yesterday, Russia's government adopted a 1992 economic reform plan vital to President Boris N. Yeltsin's hopes for winning more international assistance, and one mandating a virtual end to remaining state price controls by March.

World reaction to the new plan is literally worth billions of dollars, because it will be submitted as a memorandum in support of Russia's application for membership in the International Monetary Fund, officials said.

Approved by a government meeting chaired by Yeltsin himself, the blueprint should also muzzle domestic critics. Those critics have included Ruslan I. Khasbulatov, the speaker of the legislature who charged this week that Yeltsin and his subordinates lack a "clear-cut program of transition to a market."

Pyongyang Delays Inspections

Los Angeles Times

Seoul, South Korea

North Korea added a fresh demand Thursday that promised to prolong again mutual nuclear inspections on the Korean Peninsula.

The North Koreans urged the South to add a new duty for a joint nuclear control commission that must be established by March 18.

Besides working out details of how to enforce a Dec. 31 North-South agreement to ban nuclear weapons and facilities for enriching uranium and reprocessing nuclear fuel to produce plutonium, the North said that the commission should undertake "joint actions against nuclear threats outside the Korean peninsula" -- an apparent reference to Japan. It also proposed that the two sides seek "international guarantees of a nuclear-free Korea."

U.S. Offers Environmental Incentive

Los Angeles Times

United Nations

The United States Thursday offered developing countries $75 million to help abate pollution contributing to the greenhouse effect, saying that it was "time to put some honest money on the table."

At the same time, the chief U.S. negotiator in United Nations-sponsored global warming treaty talks said that the Bush administration soon will reveal data showing how much the United States can cut its production of greenhouse gases.

Both environmentalists and representatives of business and industrial interests gave the U.S. announcement a cautious endorsement, calling it a positive step toward an agreement that negotiators hope to complete in a final round of talks to be announced Friday.

The much-anticipated move came when U.S. delegation chief Robert Reinstein announced that the United States is committing $50 million for the coming year to the new Global Environmental Facility. He said another $25 million will go to the agency earmarked to help developing nations assess their greenhouse gas emissions.

Weather

Cold farewell

By Marek Zebrowski
Staff Meteorologist

A fast-moving low pressure system will track from the Great Plains directly towards central New England on Friday and deepen rapidly as it reaches the offshore waters. It looks like February will end on a wintry note, with accumulating snow expected in our area Friday night; cold and blustery Saturday is then to follow in the wake of the departing storm.

Friday afternoon: Clouding up throughout the day with snow arriving late. High about 39F (4C). Southwesterly winds increasing to 10-20 mph (16-32 kmh).

Friday night: Cloudy with a period of snow. Accumulations of about 2 inches are expected. Low 26F (- 3C). Strong winds continuing and shifting to north-westerly at 15-25 mph (24-40 kmh).

Saturday: Clearing in mid-morning and becoming partly sunny, windy, and unseasonably cold. High about 32F (0C).

Saturday night: Clear, cold, and continued windy, with lows in the low 20s (-6C), teens well inland.

Sunday outlook: Mostly sunny with some increasing cloudiness in the afternoon. Temperatures returning to more seasonable levels with gradually decreasing winds.