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News Briefs, part 1

Senate Republicans Outline Welfare Cuts of Nearly $500 Billion

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

A 12-member Senate Republican task force on entitlement reform released a draft report Monday outlining nearly $500 billion of potential savings over the next five years, with nearly half coming from major changes in Medicare and Medicaid.

The report, released by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., the taskforce chairman, proposed saving money by shifting control of welfare programs to the states and substantially slowing the growth rate of spending for federal retirement benefits, agricultural subsidies and other programs. It also said Congress could save substantial sums by changing the way the government computes the inflation rate - a move recommended by Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan.

"We recognize that if we don't do something about the entitlement issue - and do it fairly soon - that this country essentially will go bankrupt," Gregg told reporters.

Many of the task force's proposed reforms of health care are similiar to measures under consideration by House Republicans or those discussed last year by the president's bipartisan commission on entitlement and tax reform.

On Eve of U.S. Visit, Irish Prime Minister Offers Compromise

The Washington Post
DUBLIN, Ireland

When Ireland's prime minister arrives in the United States Tuesday for St. Patrick's Day celebrations, he will be carrying on a long and merry tradition. But amid the parties and parades, and the shamrocks and the shillelaghs, John Bruton is also carrying a message about "national identity" and Irishness that is anything but traditional.

He is challenging, by his own description, the concept at the very heart of Irish nationalism for centuries: that there must be "one united Ireland," defined by borders and territory and conventional notions of national sovereignty.

Abstract though it sounds, Bruton, on the eve of his visit, said he believes that peace in Northern Ireland - the end of a quarter-century of strife between Catholics and Protestants there that has cost more than 3,000 lives - is riding on it. He said the article of faith among Irish nationalists and their supporters - that the British must "get out" of Northern Ireland and allow the province to be reunited with the Republic of Ireland to the south - must change.

It should be replaced with a recognition that "within one territory you can have two nationalities (Irish and British) of equal legitimacy, living and sharing the same space and the same streets," regardless of which state they formally belong to.

Billy Graham's Speech Translated For People in 185 Countries

The Washington Post
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico

An illuminated map of the world as his backdrop, the Rev. Billy Graham preached in warm southern cadences while an interpreter at his side translated into staccato Spanish for the crowd here last week. Upstairs in the balcony, 47 translators in individual soundproof booths simultaneously rendered his call to repent into 47 other languages.

This Christian workers conference was the opener for the largest evangelistic event in the history of Christianity. If all goes as planned, when Graham steps to the stage in the stadium here Tuesday night, his organization says his preaching will be sent by satellite, television and videotape to an audience of more than one billion people in 185 countries - about one-fifth of the planet's population.

Billy Graham's "Global Mission" is the pinnacle of his 50-year crusade to fulfill his promise as a youth "to do something great for God." At 76, his hands shaky and his step jagged from Parkinson's disease, Graham says he has left behind the partisan politics of his younger days and is sticking to "pure gospel." Where he once acted as unofficial adviser to Richard Nixon, Graham says now he wouldn't as much as recommend Bible passages for a president's speech.

Yet his reputation as "Chaplain to the White House" has opened doors to nations previously untouched by evangelical Christianity. This new crusade is the most dramatic demonstration of the transcontinental, transcultural reach Graham has attained.