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News Briefs, part 1

Israelis Celebrate Independence Day Despite Threats

Los Angeles Times

With daylong displays of Air Force acrobatics and thousands of barbecues nationwide, millions of Israelis Thursday defiantly answered Islamic extremist threats to attack Israeli targets on Independence Day with picnics, parties and pronouncements of national pride.

On the day Israel commemorates its creation in 1948 -- traditionally the biggest party of the year, but a day that Palestinian fundamentalists had vowed last week to "turn into hell" -- there also were funerals and condemnations after the second of two suicide bombings in a week on a passenger bus deep inside northern Israel left six dead in Hadera Wednesday.

President Ezer Weizman called on the nation not to dwell on the recent terror and death, but to focus on Israel's economic and diplomatic growth since the international community carved it out of British-ruled Palestine after the Nazi genocide of Jews in the 1930s and 1940s. "Despite the terror, despite the uneasiness, despite the situation now we have a great country," he said on Israel Radio, as Israeli pilots in F-16 fighter jets conducted dizzying acrobatics displays in the skies.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin echoed Weizman's expressions of pride but also reaffirmed his vow to continue the peace process with the Palestine Liberation Organization, despite opposition in the aftermath of the suicide attacks.

Death Penalty Supporters Dominate Crime Bill Work in House

Los Angeles Times

The House showed overwhelming support Thursday for expanding the federal death penalty to 66 offenses, including murders committed during carjackings or drive-by shootings, as work began on a comprehensive crime bill embraced by President Clinton.

Lawmakers voted almost 3-1 to retain the expanded death penalty provisions, rebuffing attempts to substitute life imprisonment without parole or to narrow the list of federal offenses subject to capital punishment.

A death penalty for drug kingpins -- even without evidence of a death resulting from their activities -- easily survived liberals' attempts to knock it out of the bill.

House leaders said they expect to complete work on the bill next week and to send it to a Senate-House conference committee to iron out differences with a Senate-passed crime bill. The Senate measure contains more severe sentencing provisions and extends federal jurisdiction to include virtually every crime committed with a handgun.

Meantime, Clinton kept up pressure on Congress to pass a crime bill, meeting with big-city mayors and dozens of police officers at the White House to promote the legislation approved by the Democratic-dominated House Judiciary Committee.

It's Payback Time for D'Amato


In a recent series of Doonesbury cartoons, the joke has been on Sen. Alfonse D'Amato.

But Thursday, the New York Republican took to the floor of the U.S. Senate to toss off his own punch line.

For days now, Garry Trudeau, the author of the politically charged strip, has depicted his character Rep. Lacey Davenport taking D'Amato to task for criticizing President Clinton over Whitewater despite his own troubles with ethics investigations.

"But if there's no real scandal at the center of Whitewater, this all could backfire. We should ask ourselves honestly, `Why are we doing these things?'" the elderly cartoon congresswoman told her colleagues in one recent panel.

"Because it's payback time baby!" Trudeau had D'Amato shoot back.

Taking the floor Thursday, the real-life D'Amato read a couple of the strips into the record, acting out all of the parts and using an upper-crust, high-pitched whine for Davenport.

Then D'Amato noted that April 15 -- tax day -- was at hand and said: "Well, the only payback I've seen is to watch President Clinton pay back -- his back taxes!"

Afterward, even the Democrats were laughing. Sort of.

"Senator D'Amato should realize that there is a lot of truth based on the humor in Doonesbury," said Kiki Moore, spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee.