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News Briefs

Taiwan Declines Aid From China


The Chinese government offered Thursday to send rescue teams, tents and quilts to Taiwan to help victims of Tuesday’s massive earthquake, but Taiwan declined, saying such aid is not needed at the moment. Taiwanese officials left open the door to a related Chinese offer of a cash donation, which it first suggested on Tuesday.

It was a decidedly mixed response to unprecedented Chinese overtures. While the mainland has received more than $50 million in disaster relief from Taiwanese donors since the 1980s, China has never sent aid to the island it considers to be a breakaway province.

Although tensions across the Taiwan Strait have abated since the quake, there has been no symbolic breakthrough in relations akin to that seen by rivals Turkey and Greece following their shared grief and mutual aid in recent back-to-back earthquakes. Some in Taiwan are finding it difficult to be gracious about accepting China’s helping hand given Beijing’s bellicose rhetoric of the past two months.

After Taiwan’s President Lee Teng-hui declared in July that Taiwan’s relations with China should be on a “state-to-state” basis, the Chinese government warned of “catastrophe” if Taiwan did not back down, and the military held a large-scale mock invasion of Taiwan.

NASA Blames Navigation Error for $125 Million Missing Mars Satellite


Heartsick NASA engineers strained for some whisper of hope from a missing weather satellite at Mars Thursday, all but convinced that a last-minute navigation error caused the $125 million spacecraft to disintegrate in the Martian atmosphere.

“We have a serious problem with the Mars Climate Orbiter and we may in fact be facing loss of mission,” said Carl Pilcher, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s science director for solar system exploration.

A preliminary analysis left mission managers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory here with little doubt that the Mars Climate Orbiter itself had performed properly during its rendezvous with Mars early Thursday but that a human reckoning error had plunged the spacecraft too deeply into the Martian sky where friction from the planet’s tenuous atmosphere either broke it apart or burned it up.

“A significant navigation error occurred,” said JPL project manager Richard A. Cook, who was overseeing the Orbiter rendezvous with Mars. “It looks like something was wrong with the ground navigation. We are, to put it bluntly... surprised.”

House GOP Takes Up Spending Bill


House Republicans Thursday began work on a giant fiscal 2000 labor, health and education measure that roughly matches this year’s spending but guts the Clinton administration’s education and job-training initiatives and relies heavily on creative budgetary tactics.

The bill, approved by appropriators along party lines, would torpedo President Clinton’s plan to add 100,000 teachers to the nation’s classrooms and eliminate funds for Goals 2000, building improvements and a program to help youngsters prepare for college. Instead, the Republicans trimmed and consolidated those funds in a block grant program that has yet to be fully authorized.

With only a week before the start the new fiscal year and a raft of difficult spending issues to resolve, congressional negotiators focused on many different fronts: The agriculture bill was deadlocked over whether to lift sanction on Cuba; the defense bill was stalled over the F-22 fighter aircraft, and the foreign operations bill was hung up over international family planning.