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Federal Surplus Could Reach $210 Billion

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

The booming economy and capital gains scored by investors in last year’s soaring stock market are boosting tax revenues so much this spring that the federal budget surplus could reach $210 billion, about $30 billion above current official estimates, according to financial analysts.

That extra money could make it easier for the Clinton administration and congressional Republicans to reconcile some of their differences over additional spending or tax cuts for this fiscal year and the next, which starts Oct. 1.

That’s because the bulk of the $30 billion could be used without dipping into the Social Security trust fund surplus, which Clinton and congressional Republicans have ruled off limits as a source of funding for non-Social Security spending or tax cuts.

In the short run, the revenue windfall means the government will be paying down the publicly held national debt more rapidly.

In the long run, if the additional money is not immediately committed for future use, it could leave more room in future budgets for the competing tax and spending proposals being offered by Republican presidential candidates Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore. Wall Street analysts who closely track the daily flow of tax receipts into the U.S. Treasury’s coffers say the amount of money being sent by individuals along with their 1999 personal income tax returns is running nearly one-fourth higher than it was in April 1999.

Woman Using Herbal Aid Has Stroke

THE WASHINGTON POST -- MANASSAS, VA

By Tuesday, Sarah Ingham could swallow again, and shrug her shoulders, and almost talk. Wednesday morning, she told her mother “I love you” and managed to say the name of her fiance, Jeremy.

Ingham, a 24-year-old Manassas, Va., resident, had been taking a dietary supplement containing the powerful herbal substance ephedra for about a month. She wanted to lose some weight before her fall wedding, and yes, she nodded from her hospital bed, she did lose a few pounds.

But on Sunday morning, the day after Jeremy Scheingold put the engagement ring on her finger, she awoke with numbness in the right side of her face. She arose, walked to the bathroom and collapsed in the shower. She had a stroke, and she nearly died.

Ingham is one of an unknown number of Americans who have suffered serious illness or death after taking products containing ephedra, a traditional Chinese asthma remedy marketed with almost no governmental oversight by scores of U.S. companies as an energy booster or as a way to lose weight.

Ingham has partial movement in her right arm and no movement in her right hand, and she can only mumble a few words at a time. She will leave intensive care soon, but she faces months of hospital rehabilitation.

“She may make a significant recovery,” said neurologist Michael Hofstetter, who is treating Ingham at Manassas’s Hospital.