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News Briefs

Bush Continues To Stress Education

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- ERIE, PA.

George W. Bush Wednesday ratcheted up his efforts to convince voters that he is the leader who will bring change to the nation’s failing education system, accusing his Democratic opponent of overseeing “seven years of stagnancy” in schools and doing nothing to reduce the “achievement gap” between minority and white students.

After days of being criticized for failing to be specific on policy proposals, the Bush campaign tried out a new line of attack Wednesday, saying it is Gore who is not being specific. Bush communications director Karen Hughes said that Gore had not given an accounting of how he would spend the $115 billion, 10-year increase he has proposed for education. She then walked reporters through the two dozen education proposals -- including three Bush made Wednesday -- that she said would cost $47 billion over 10 years.

The centerpiece of Bush’s proposals was a provision to boost the federal Pell Grant program by $5 billion over five years. Currently, the Pell Grant program provides scholarships of up to $3,300 a year to 4 million low-income students at a cost of $7.9 billion a year. Under Bush’s plan, students in their first year of college would be eligible for up to $5,100 at a cost of $5.1 billion over five years. Bush said the plan would encourage more young people to enter and finish their college educations.

Iranian, American Legislators Take Steps Toward Formal Relations

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

In the highest-ranking exchange between Tehran and Washington since the 1979 American Embassy takeover, Iranian and U.S. legislators met in New York on Wednesday to begin discussing issues of mutual concern and ways to reduce hostilities.

The meeting, sponsored by the U.S.-Iran Council but approved by Iran, is being touted as the opening round in an initiative designed to formally end tensions and move more decisively to renew diplomatic relations, according to Iranian and Congressional sources.

“This is a signal that Iran is ready to meet publicly with American legislators,” said a well-placed Iranian who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

During the two-hour session, the American legislators extended an invitation for the Iranians to send a formal delegation to visit their counterparts in Washington. The Iranian source said the five-person delegation from Iran was interested in exploring a two-way exchange that would also take American legislators to Tehran.

In an interview, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he hopes the ground-breaking event will accelerate rapprochement. “It’s time to start a dialogue with Iran, and since there isn’t an official government-to-government dialogue, this parliamentary contact will be the way to break the ice,” he said.