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News Briefs

Clinton Reassigns Thousands of Federal Workers to Fight Fires


With the worst wildfire season in decades still raging across the West, President Clinton Friday ordered federal agencies to reassign as many as 2,000 supervisors and managers to join the front lines of the blazes in support roles.

More than 80 fires are burning across vast western wilderness areas, many in remote forests of Idaho and Montana. The enormous contingents of firefighters and military troops that have been battling the blazes for weeks are gaining little ground because every time they contain one set, hot and dry weather ignites a large and dangerous new batch. And that predicament is not likely to end soon.

In all, nearly 1.5 million acres are burning, pushing the total number of acres scorched this year to close to 6 million -- twice the nation’s annual average during the summer wildfire season. Earlier this week, in fear of fire risks, Montana Gov. Marc Racicot took the extraordinary step of limiting public access to 16 counties. That decision will virtually shut down forest recreation in the western end of the state.

Several hundred homes in remote areas around the West have been destroyed by the wildfires, and the overall financial toll to residences and the tourism industry has yet to be tallied. Early this month, Clinton estimated the cost of firefighting alone to be $325 million.

Lieberman Attacks Bush Tax Plan


Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman used his first solo swing as the Democratic vice presidential candidate to get in some digs at Republican George W. Bush’s tax cut plan.

Lieberman spent the day at a community center in Claymont, a small suburb of Wilmington, kissing seniors and hugging children as he continued the debate over whose tax plan is better.

“The point is about their tax plan, we shouldn’t help those who need it least at the expense of everything else we want to do,” said Lieberman, who was cheered by about 500 supporters in the center’s brick courtyard.

Lieberman told the audience that the Texas governor had pointed out a “pre-selected” family in a crowd in New Orleans on Thursday, claiming that they wouldn’t benefit from the Gore-Lieberman tax cut plan. In fact, Lieberman said, that family would receive more money under the Democratic proposal than the Republican plan.

“I think it’s good to have a debate about taxes,” Lieberman said. “That’s what that campaign ought to be about. But it has to be an honest debate that accurately tells the American people what we would do, what they would do, so you the voters can make an informed choice.”

Potential Voters See Nader as Either a Third Way or Dead End


The curly-haired woman, a retired children’s librarian, can’t remember when she voted last, but come November she vows to find her polling place.

“Only because of Nader,” said Maggie Gold, 62, at a house party in the majestic hills above Santa Barbara, north of Los Angeles. “Finally there is someone who has principles. It’s like he says: We have to vote our hopes, not our fears.”

On a weeklong swing through the “left coast” -- where his polling numbers have had some Democratic leaders biting their nails -- Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader stirred up his citizen army with talk of 1 million voters giving 100 hours and $100 a year to change American politics.

His audience is the disenfranchised and disenchanted but goes beyond the predictable barefoot and Birkenstock-shod Greens.

At several California campaign stops this week were engineers and students, homemakers and immigrants, men in business suits and women in chic designer outfits. At one stop a new Jaguar sported a Kelly green “Nader for President” sticker on its chrome bumper.

More than a few who came said their friends think they are “crazy” for supporting Nader, warning they’re stealing votes from Democrat Al Gore and, in effect, giving them to Republican George W. Bush.