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News briefs, part 1

Veteran Diplomat Named Ambassador to Argentina

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON

Career diplomat James R. Cheek, exiled for 12 years to Nepal, Ethiopia and Sudan after the Reagan administration's 1981 purge of Latin America specialists, is the State Department's choice to be the next ambassador to Argentina.

Cheek, a 30-year Foreign Service officer and, perhaps more importantly, an Arkansas native, had been thought by the Reaganites to be insufficiently tough in dealing with leftist inroads in Central America.

Cheek was in the process of retiring when he returned to Washington after the election to work on the Clinton transition team.

However, Cheek may face tough questioning by Capitol Hill conservatives for his input into President Jimmy Carter's Latin America policy.

The Buenos Aires job had been given by President George Bush to William Walker, a career official and former ambassador to El Salvador, but that nomination, along with several others, lapsed as Election Day approached. President Clinton's folks offered Walker Ecuador instead, sources say, but he turned it down, perhaps hoping for something better, like Mexico or Spain.

Meanwhile, Peter Romero, now deputy chief of mission in San Salvador, has been picked to be ambassador there. The word is that Salvadorans are concerned that a relatively green diplomat would get that sensitive post. State also has chosen Central America hand John Maisto for Nicaragua.

The embassies in San Salvador and Managua have been vacant for a year as Bush's two nominees, Joseph Sullivan and Michael Kozak, were blocked by Senate questions over a covert program that may have influenced the Nicaraguan elections in 1990.

Social Security Tax Increase Will Be Hard Sell for Clinton

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON

When President Clinton pitches his long-awaited economic program to a watching nation Wednesday, about 8 million elderly Americans could prove to be particularly tough customers. The elderly lobby is among the most powerful interest groups in Washington, and Clinton's program could quickly unravel if older Americans mobilize against it.

Under present law, Social Security recipients pay no income taxes on their benefits unless their total annual income, after adjustments, exceeds $25,000 for individuals and $32,000 for couples. For those recipients, up to 50 percent of their benefits may be subject to taxation.

Many observers predict Clinton will ask Congress to leave the income thresholds where they are, but to increase the amount of benefits subject to taxation to 85 percent. That would make the taxation of Social Security benefits roughly comparable to the current tax treatment of private pensions for which employees make contributions.

Clinton and his advisers are considering the increase because it addresses two critical needs, administration officials say. First, it would make a significant contribution to deficit reduction by generating an estimated $30 billion in additional tax revenues over five years. The deficit is expected to reach $319 billion by 1997, according to congressional analysts, and the president has pledged to reduce the figure by $145 billion.

Second, Clinton has accused the Reagan and Bush administrations of pursuing policies that favored the wealthy, and has signaled his intent to ask those at the top of the income ladder to contribute their fair share to deficit reduction.

So far, the AARP has refrained from attacking the tax proposal. But Rother noted that older Americans gave Clinton better support at the polls than any other age group. Surveys of voters as they left the polls on Election Day showed that 51 percent of voters over the age of 65 supported Clinton, compared with 38 percent for Bush and 10 percent for independent Ross Perot. In contrast, of all American voters 43 percent backed Clinton, 38 percent supported Bush and 19 percent Perot.

Weather

Snow and Slush

By Arnold Seto
STAFF Meteorologis

A strong low pressure system from the southwest will deepen and bring us 3-4 inches (8-10 cm) of precipitation beginning this afternoon. Snow will predominate early on, but will quickly change to a mixture of snow and rain that will make driving hazardous.

The rain will continue through tonight and possibly early tomorrow morning. Tomorrow will be warm and very breezy. Thursday look for clearing skies and slightly cooler temperatures.

Today: Snow and rain. Winds southeast 10-20 mph (16-32 kph). High 32-37 F (0-3 C). Chance of snow near 100%.

Tonight: Rain, possibly heavy. Fairly windy, 23-30 mph (37-48 kph). Low 30-35 F (-1 to 2 C).

Tomorrow: A 30% chance of rain, some clearing. Variable winds, 23-30 mph (37-48 kph). High 40-45 F (4-6 C). Low in mid 30s (1-3 C).

Thursday: Clearing. Weakening northwest and west winds 10-15 mph (16-24 kph). High 30-40 F (-1 to 4 C). Low in the 20s (-6 to -1 C).