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News Briefs

Budget Cuts Reflect of Clinton Vision


As President Bush prepares to reveal the fine print of his vision of government in his first budget, his administration has decided to curtail -- or redefine -- policies that were hallmarks of the Clinton years. They include efforts to slow nuclear proliferation, coordinate health care for the uninsured and put more police on the streets.

The $1.9 trillion spending plan the president is to issue in a week also will pare recent government initiatives to conserve energy, spur economic development in poor communities and train doctors at children’s hospitals. Those and other budgetary details have been gleaned in recent days by congressional staff members, advocacy groups and other budget-watchers and were confirmed by administration sources.

While Bush’s aides have been reticent to discuss the budget publicly, they have concluded that they can trim a variety of programs that they consider ineffective or duplicative -- or that have received generous increases in the recent past. The shifts are necessary to meet the president’s goal of limiting the growth of domestic spending to 4 percent next year to make room for his main domestic objective: $1.6 trillion in tax cuts over the next decade.

NASA Plans New Mars Mission With Anxiety and Hope


Humbled by Mars, NASA is about to send another spacecraft to study it.

The launch of the 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter, set for Saturday, is the first since the agency was staggered by 1999’s back-to-back failures of missions to the planet. And it is the first Mars craft to be dispatched since the National Aeronautics and Space Administration drastically revamped the program based on multiple investigations of what went wrong.

“The question on everyone’s mind now is: ‘Is it going to work?’ ” said George Pace, Odyssey project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which manages the Mars program for NASA. “It’s got to work.”

Rather than merely fixing the problems that killed previous missions, he said, “We’ve been trying to anticipate and prevent” a long list of other risks.

Although the Odyssey -- designed to map the chemical and mineral makeup of the Martian surface -- was too far along in development for radical redesign, an outside “red team” reviewed it and recommended 144 changes in hardware, software and testing procedures, said Scott Hubbard, NASA’s Mars program director. All of them have been addressed in some fashion, managers said.

Fox Seeks Tax System Overhaul


President Vicente Fox is proposing a broad overhaul of Mexico’s ineffective tax system to generate billions of new dollars for government spending by cracking down on evaders and broadening the tax base.

Fox’s tax reform proposal, which he will submit to Congress as early as Tuesday, is the most ambitious effort at tax reform here in decades and the central pillar of Fox’s economic agenda.

“There will be no money to finance their very ambitious programs unless they implement a massive tax reform,” said Denise Dresser, who teaches political science at Mexico’s Autonomous Institute of Technology. She said the economic success of Fox’s six-year term may be determined by his ability to pass tax reform.

Fox is counting on a restructured tax system to provide revenue to pay for his promised increases in education, health and other social programs. He hopes to raise $14 billion -- the equivalent of 2.2 percent of the gross domestic product -- in the next year and another 4 percent to 5 percent of the GDP in the next five years.