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Human beings are wiping out species at a rate not seen since dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago, botanists warned. Peter Raven, president of the International Botanical Congress - which is meeting in St. Louis this week - said that at the current pace of habitat destruction only 5 percent of the world's tropical rain forests will remain by the middle of the next century.

The House wrapped up debate on a $12.6 billion foreign-aid bill, leaving final spending levels and several other tough issues - including assistance to India - to be worked out in negotiations with the Senate. The House postponed a final vote on the bill, which would cut President Clinton's request by $1.9 billion. It provides $7.4 billion for economic aid, $3.6 billion for military assistance, $1.1 billion for international agencies, and $595.5 million for export assistance.

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The Christian Coalition won a three-year legal battle when a judge ruled its voter guides did not violate election laws. The ruling by US district Judge Joyce Green came in response to a case brought by the Federal Election Commission in 1996. The coalition was ordered to pay a civil penalty - to be decided later - for advocating reelection of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and sharing a mailing list with Oliver North, a GOP Senate candidate in Virginia in 1994.

The Senate passed, 93 to 0, a bill designed to stop deceptive sweepstakes and promotional mailings. It would expand the power of the Postal System to halt abuses in a sweepstakes business totalling about $1 billion a year. The House has not yet taken up a similar measure.

The government must pay the heirs of the late Abraham Zapruder $16 million for his 26-second film of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, a special arbitration panel ruled on a 2-to-1 vote. The award was near the midpoint between the $30 million sought by the Zapruder family and the $1 million offered by the Justice Department for the original film taken as Kennedy's motorcade moved through Dallas Nov. 22, 1963.

Direct charter flights to Cuba will be allowed from airports in New York and Los Angeles for the first time since the US imposed an embargo on the island four decades ago, Rep. Charles Rangel said. The New York Democrat said he learned from State Department officials that the new charters will be authorized sometime after October. Direct flights are now limited to Miami. The freer travel is part of a US initiative to loosen limits on contact between Americans and Cubans.

Many airlines were offering steep discounts for late-summer and fall travel after Northwest lowered prices over the weekend. Some off-peak prices were said to be down as much as 25 percent. Other carriers offering the discounts included: United, American, US Airways, America West, Continental, TWA, and Delta.

Mt. Baker, in Washington State, set a world snowfall record this winter, the National Climatic Data Center announced. It said 1998-99 snowfall at Baker totaled 1,140 inches, topping the previous record of 1,122 inches at Washington's Mt. Rainier in 1971-72. The Baker snowfall was measured at the Mount Baker Ski Area, which made a claim on the record in May before the end of the snow season.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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