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World Briefs II

Conservatives Pressure Senate GOP Leaders to Support Larger Tax Cut

The Washington Post

Senate Republican leaders on Thursday agreed to support major tax cuts in the range of $60 billion to $80 billion over five years, yielding to pressure from conservatives in their party who demanded far more than the $30 billion allowed in a Senate budget plan.

They also agreed to join with House Republicans in making the elimination of the so-called marriage tax penalty a top priority this year and to pursue other tax measures as part of a large budget package that will be voted late this spring.

The understanding came as the Senate worked late into the night to complete a $1.7 trillion fiscal 1999 balanced budget plan before an April recess and marked an important victory for the conservatives, led by Sens. John D. Ashcroft (R-Mo.) and Rod Grams (R-Minn.) in their fight for increased tax cuts in an era of looming surpluses.

The commitment to larger tax cuts could spark an election-year conflict between Congress and President Clinton, who proposed $24 billion of tax cuts through 2003. Some Republicans believe such a fight would energize their conservative base, despite polls showing that many Americans are conflicted about the need for additional tax cuts.

Teenage Smoking Rates Rise by a Third, a New Study Reports

The Washington Post

Despite a national debate on reducing youth smoking, American teenagers continue to light up in increasing numbers, according to new government figures.

Overall, smoking rates among high school students rose by nearly a third between 1991 and 1997, creeping up from 27.5 percent to 36.4 percent, according to the new report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

More than half of white male high schoolers - 51.5 percent - and more than a third of white female students - 40.8 percent - reported smoking a cigarette in the previous month in 1997, the latest year the survey of 16,000 students in grades 9 through 12 was conducted.

The sharpest and most troubling rise occurred among African-American students, whose smoking increased by 80 percent during the same period - rising from 12.6 percent to 22.7 percent. The increase narrowed a long-standing gap between black and white teenagers and reversed what had been a consistent decline in smoking among African-American students.

Couple Re-Examined in Home Deaths of Eight Babies

The Washington Post

There was something suspicious about a couple in Philadelphia whose 10 babies had all died, eight at home for no obvious reason. Questions about the deaths of Marie and Arthur Noe's children were raised by a Philadelphia doctor 35 years ago at an international meeting on unexplained crib deaths, but the inquiry had gone cold until this week as the Philadelphia district attorney's office announced it has reopened an investigation into the Noe deaths, which date from 1949 to 1968.

The Philadelphia Daily News quoted unnamed police sources Thursday saying Marie Noe confessed last week to murdering five of her 10 children by using a pillow. Other sources said Noe, 69, has made a statement to police about the deaths, but that it falls short of being a confession.

Marie and Arthur Noe were at home yesterday in their small rowhouse in a suburban Philadelphia neighborhood. Their lawyer has asked them not to talk to the press. In a letter of complaint to the district attorney's office, he said neither of his clients is in good health.