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News Briefs

Bush Pushes for Largest Possible Tax Package


With Congress about to decide the shape of his tax cut, President Bush has found a new line of argument in his effort to persuade lawmakers to approve the largest possible tax package: bigger is better.

But the president’s simple math has raised eyebrows among some Republican economists, who have long questioned the traditionally Democratic notion of economic “stimulus,” especially at a time when previously passed tax cuts, rising government spending and a war have pumped more money into the economy than the current downturn has taken out.

Lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee will begin drafting competing tax legislation this week, with the House bill to total $550 billion in tax cuts through 2013 and the Senate aiming at a net cost of $350 billion over the same period. Bush continues to push for a tax cut of “at least” $550 billion, arguing that a larger number will create more jobs.

The president hopes to virtually eliminate taxes on corporate dividends while accelerating already-approved tax cuts, including reduction of every income tax rate, an expansion of the child credit, and elimination of the “marriage penalty.”

Judge to Rule On Sniper Suspect’s Confession


During a controversial confession to Virginia police last fall, Washington, D.C.-area sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo waived his right to talk to a lawyer and then laughed as he recounted several of the shootings, a police detective testified Monday.

On the first day of a pretrial hearing, Fairfax County Detective June Boyle said she repeatedly asked Malvo if he wanted to consult with a lawyer. She said he declined, launching into six hours of statements about the murders.

Malvo told Boyle that he fired a rifle shot at FBI analyst Linda Franklin, one of 13 people killed in Maryland, Washington and Virginia during October’s three-week murder spree. Boyle said that when she asked where Franklin had been struck, Malvo “laughed and pointed to his head.”

The detective was the first of 12 witnesses called Monday at a hearing to consider a defense motion to throw out Malvo’s confession. His lawyers said the admissions were illegally obtained; but Fairfax prosecutors and police insist that Malvo, now 18, was treated properly.

During previous defense challenges, Fairfax Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush has sided mostly with prosecutors. And on Monday, she did not appear overly skeptical of the state’s case. She is expected to rule Tuesday on whether the confession can be used in Malvo’s trial.

Team Arrives At Space Station


An American and a Russian climbed through a cable-lined hatch into the International Space Station Monday after a closely watched flight on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft that has become the sole lifeline of the $100 billion orbiting laboratory.

Edward Lu, a research physicist and flight engineer, and Yuri Malenchenko, the Russian commander, will replace a three-man crew whose stay was prolonged after the U.S. space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on a return journey from the station on Feb. 1.

With the remaining three shuttles grounded, Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft and Progress freighters are shouldering the entire burden of ferrying crews back and forth to the station and keeping them supplied with water, fuel and other necessities.