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News Briefs

Bill Would Require Pledge of Allegiance, Moment of Silence


Texas public school students would be required to observe a moment of silence and recite the pledge of allegiance to the flags of the United States and Texas each morning under a bill that is just a step short of the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 83, by state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, won easy preliminary approval by the Texas House Monday on a nonrecord voice vote. If it gets final approval Tuesday, it heads to the governor.

The bill doesn’t require students to stand during the moment of silence, nor does it include a prayer to be recited out loud. Branch said that students of all faiths -- or none -- would be able to take advantage of that time. Students already may pray in school if they want.

If the bill gets a two-thirds majority vote Tuesday, it would be effective starting in the 2003-04 school year.

Pakistan Willing to Talk With Archrival India


Building on a week of surprising diplomatic moves, Pakistan announced its willingness Monday to pursue mutual nuclear disarmament and open dialogue with archrival India as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage headed to Islamabad to kick off a tour of the troubled region.

“As far as Pakistan is concerned, if India is ready to denuclearize, we would be happy to denuclearize,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan. “But it will have to be mutual.”

Pakistan and India declared themselves nuclear powers after successfully detonating atomic devices in 1998. Neither country has opened its arsenal to inspections and it is not known exactly what weapons they possess. But the presence of nuclear arms has cast a dark shadow over relations between the two, which have fought three wars since gaining independence in 1947.

Last Friday, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee announced that New Delhi would restore diplomatic ties and air links with Pakistan, signaling a potential end to a 16-month standoff.

Chicago and Seattle to Simulate Simultaneous Terror Attacks


The cities of Chicago and Seattle will be the focus of a $16 million exercise starting next week that will test how the federal government would deal with simultaneous attacks by terrorists using biological and radiological weapons, the Bush administration announced Monday.

The exercise, said to be the largest domestic security drill ever carried out by the federal government, will be played out over five days beginning on Monday and involve dozens of federal, state and local emergency-response agencies.

In Chicago, emergency-response teams will be asked to pretend that they are dealing with the release of pneumonic plague, a deadly biological agent that is highly contagious. In Seattle, local agencies will be asked to respond to a scenario in which more than 100 people are injured in the explosion of a so-called dirty bomb, a weapon created when radiological material is wrapped around common explosives.

In Washington, several senior Bush administration officials, led by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, will try to organize the federal response to the attacks and to track down the terrorists. Other officials, including President Bush and Andrew Card, his chief of staff, will be portrayed by stand-ins.