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World Briefs II

Senate Approves Spending Bill Despite Veto Threat

Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

Defying a presidential veto threat, the Senate approved a spending bill Thursday that contains $8.5 billion in emergency funds for disaster-ravaged states, foreign peacekeeping operations and other projects, but also includes a provision aimed at weakening the administration's bargaining position in future budget negotiations.

By a 7822 vote, senators agreed to spend $5.5 billion to help more than two dozen states recover from recent record floods and other natural disasters and $1.8 billion for military activity aimed at keeping the peace in Bosnia and the Middle East.

The legislation is expected to be considered in the House next week.

The controversial part of the bill, sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., seeks to avoid the type of federal government shutdowns that occurred in 1995 and '96 by providing automatic funding for government services and operations even if there is no budget on Oct. 1, the start of the government's fiscal year.

Still stinging from their embarrassing role in a budget impasse that led to the previous government shutdowns, Republicans pressed for an automatic funding provision that would retain government operations at 100 percent of the existing level.

Reno Expands Size of Justice Dept. Group Probing Fund-Raising

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

Attorney General Janet Reno said Thursday she is expanding the size of a Justice Department task force investigating campaign fund-raising abuses during last year's presidential campaign because of the complexity of the wide-ranging probe.

Reno, in a session with reporters, played down her disagreement with FBI Director Louis J. Freeh over whether to seek appointment of an independent counsel to take over the investigation, which is focused in part on actions by White House and Democratic Party officials.

Freeh has said he believes the Justice Department has a conflict of interest in conducting the inquiry and has recommended that an independent counsel be named, a move Reno so far has refused to make.

Reno's decision to add more lawyers to the Justice Department task force parallels Freeh's recent announcement that he has nearly doubled the number of FBI agents assigned to the probe.

Justice Department officials declined to specify Thursday how many new lawyers would be joining the task force, but said they would be providing "substantial" new resources to the team.

Freeh recommended appointment of an independent counsel, according to one person with knowledge of an analysis prepared for the FBI director, because of "the totality of the allegations" against senior officials at the White House and the Democratic National Committee.

Mexican Police Forces Clash In Mexico City Melee

By Mark Fineman
Los Angeles Times
MEXICO CITY

The Mexican government's struggle to retrain and reform the capital's notoriously corrupt police force suffered a major setback Thursday when hundreds of the first graduates of an ambitious police re-education program battled riot squads in a melee that left dozens injured and at least 17 under arrest.

More than 200 rioting police officers, who had just completed a two-month military training course to instill discipline, honesty and professionalism in their ranks, were protesting transfers from their home district - another measure aimed at reducing corruption.

The "dissident" police, as they were dubbed in news reports that called the confrontation "a police war," showered rocks and bottles on about 1,000 riot troops who opened fire with tear gas after the protesters tried to seize a police station. There were unconfirmed reports of shots fired by both sides.

The protesting police were among the first officers to graduate from the military course. They were part of a vanguard of 1,600 officers from the city's crime-infested district of Ixtapalapa, where they were replaced temporarily by soldiers in police uniforms until graduation nine days ago.

The group launched its protest Wednesday after learning of the reassignment, but Wednesday's protest was largely peaceful.

Speaker Gingrich Targets Anti-Drug Efforts, Education

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

Now that Republican leaders have secured an agreement to balance the budget, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., pledged Thursday to work toward curbing illicit drug use and teenage pregnancies and improving education by 2001.

The speaker called for a "national crusade fully as intensive as the effort to balance the budget" to combat illegal drug use and said it was "vital that we reassert the centrality of faith in the definition of America." He endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment on school prayer, saying a society divorced from religion is a "hopeless, empty desert of despair."

Gingrich also proposed:

- Mandatory life prison terms for first offenders who cross borders with or produce commercial quantities of illegal drugs and the death sentence for repeat offenders. "If you sell it, we're going to kill you," he said.

- Using Air Force reconnaissance planes to monitor drug trafficking.

- Support for faith-based rehabilitation programs.

- Vouchers that parents may use to send their children to private schools.