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News Briefs

Republican Senators Threaten Showdown on Crime Bill


Republicans led by Minority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas Wednesday proposed that the Senate vote on 10 amendments to the $30.2 billion crime bill that would strike $5 billion in "social spending" from the package supported by President Clinton and passed Sunday in the House of Representatives.

Majority Leader George Mitchell of Maine called the Republican initiative "a very carefully thought out proposal" intended to kill the bill. If the changes were adopted, he said, the measure would likely die after reverting to the House, where 10 days of painful negotiations were needed to pass a delicately crafted compromise. "My concern is that the crime bill will never become law," Mitchell said.

"So what? It goes back to the House. Then they act on it," Dole said, arguing that if Congress acts quickly, Clinton could be signing a new bill into law "in a matter of days."

Throughout the day Wednesday, Dole threatened that unless the Democrats agreed to negotiate on the amendments, he would call a procedural vote and effectively kill the bill with the support of 41 Republicans.

Still, late Wednesday, neither party leader had a clear handle on how many members they actually controlled, with both men acknowledging that any votes on the crime bill would be close.

Russian Officials Recover 22 Pounds of Stolen Uranium

Los Angeles Times

Russian security officials, adding weight to promises that they would work harder to stop nuclear smuggling, announced Wednesday that they had recovered more than 22 pounds of uranium stolen from a closed nuclear center.

The uranium-238 was not weapons-grade and Atomic Energy Ministry spokesman Georgy Kaurov said the material was so harmless it could best be used as a weight for a fishing lure or "to make presses for buckets of sauerkraut."

But in the wake of German accusations that plutonium recently seized in the Munich airport originated in Russia, the uranium case served as concrete reassurance that Moscow would try harder to keep its nuclear stocks under control.

The actual origin of the Munich plutonium has not been established, but German suspicions that it came from Russia - it arrived on a Lufthansa flight from Moscow - were so strong that Chancellor Helmut Kohl dispatched his intelligence coordinator for three days of talks with Russian security chiefs.

The meetings yielded joint resolutions Monday to fight the nuclear black market harder and with more coordination, but no definitive word on where the plutonium came from.

Majority of World's Religions Support Population Conference

The Washington Post

Despite the strong opposition voiced by the Vatican and Muslim religious leaders, a majority of members of the world's religions support the aims of the upcoming Cairo conference on population and development, a panel of theologians of various faiths said Wednesday.

While they said they knew of no polls or measurements to gauge that support, four speakers - two Protestants, a Jew and a dissident Catholic - told a telephone news conference that family planning is embraced by most religions, and that people of many faiths have applauded the United Nations conference's goal of educating and empowering women.

Many religious leaders and theologians, including Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and others, have voiced general support for the conference, which begins Sept. 5. But their often-equivocal pledges of support have been drowned out by the passionate and increasingly unified opposition mounted by the Roman Catholic Church, conservative Protestant groups and Muslims.

The Clinton administration, a strong backer of the Cairo conference, has been besieged recently by detractors and has turned to other religious voices for reinforcement.