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News Briefs

France to Continue Bailouts Despite E.U. Criticism

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

After boldly flouting the European Union’s macroeconomic guidelines, France on Monday appeared to be doing the same with the union’s microeconomic rule book.

The French finance minister, Francis Mer, met with Europe’s competition commissioner, Mario Monti, in Brussels on Monday to explain why France would not abandon its 300 million euro bailout of Alstom, the nearly bankrupt French industrial group. Mer also defended his government’s decision to intervene on behalf of the French computer company Bull.

The European Commission had ordered France to recover 450 million euros ($500 million) of government aid that Bull received last year. Monti threatened to take France to the European Court of Justice if it did not collect the money by the end of this month.

A spokesman for Monti, Tilman Lueder, said Mer told Monti that France would recover the money from Bull as soon as possible, but he gave no timetable.

Strange Bedfellows in Campaign Finance Arguments

THE BOSTON GLOBE -- WASHINGTON

It is the rarest of days in the nation’s capital when the Republican National Committee takes on the party’s leader, President Bush.

But that is what happened Monday, when the committee’s lawyers urged the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out restrictions on unlimited contributions to political parties, while the president’s lawyer argued that the campaign finance law signed by Bush be upheld.

To make things more awkward, analysts have contended that the Republican Party has clearly benefited from the passage of the law it is now trying to overturn. The Republican National Committee has outraised the Democratic National Committee by a 3-to-1 ratio since the ban went into effect. The law has also helped put Bush on track to collect $200 million for his presidential campaign, twice the amount he raised in 2000 and four times the donations that can be raised by a candidate who accepts public financing.

Promoting the USA PATRIOT Act, Ashcroft Selective of His Audiences

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- DURHAM, N.C.

Awash in American flags and looking every bit the political candidate, Attorney General John Ashcroft clenched his fist as he reached the emotional high point in a speech that he had delivered four times in the past 24 hours.

“We are winning the war on terrorism,” Ashcroft declared, punching his fist in the air to emphasize the final words. His invitation-only audience, including dozens of uniformed military and police officers, burst into applause as if on cue.

The moment had all the trappings of a barnstorming tour, complete with a placard on the lectern referring listeners to a new Justice Department Web site on “preserving life and liberty.” Except that Ashcroft, the former Missouri senator and governor, is not running for office. Instead, he is seeking through a nationwide speaking tour to rally support for the sweeping anti-terrorism law that is known as the Patriot Act.

Nearly two years after the terrorist attacks that spurred the law, Ashcroft’s pleas in defense of the law have provided a high-profile forum allowing the nation to take stock of how effective the Bush administration has been in guarding against another attack. Americans are also gauging how willing they are to sacrifice civil liberties.