News In Brief
Forcing a showdown over a key election-year issue, President Clinton vetoed a bill to repeal the so-called marriage penalty tax. House Republicans had easily moved the the $90 billion measure through Congress as part of a broader agenda to use much of the projected $2 trillion federal surplus for tax cuts. Clinton called the plan "fiscally reckless." House Speaker Dennis Hastert pledged an override vote. Clinton also has threatened to veto the recently passed repeal of the federal estate tax.
The nation's top military official disputed claims by Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush that US armed forces were lacking in readiness. Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said all 10 divisions of the Army were ready for wartime action, a statement echoed by Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon. Shelton did admit "some readiness shortfalls."
Five hundred marines were called in to fight the growing wildfires that have engulfed portions of the West. The marines will be the fourth battalion of US troops to join an international firefighting crew battling what is being called the worst fire season in decades. Clinton planned to meet with firefighters in the Boise, Idaho, area tomorrow. Years of drought have fueled almost 63,000 separate blazes covering 3.9 million acres this year, a figure twice as high as normal. Dry, fire-friendly conditions are expected to prevail through the summer.
Fresh from his formal acceptance speech and enjoying a post-convention "bounce" in the polls, Bush campaigned with running mate Dick Cheney across the Midwest on a whistle-stop train tour. Democratic challenger Al Gore, meanwhile, planned an eight-day cross-country tour prior to his Aug. 16 arrival at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
One month after approving $1.3 billion to help its drug war, President Clinton announced plans to visit Colombia. Clinton is scheduled to meet with President Andrs Pastrana Aug. 30 to support the country's efforts against Communist guerrillas, ultraright death squads, state security forces, and narco-traffickers. Clinton said he also issued a directive to aid Pastrana's "Plan Colombia." Critics say Clinton's support will drag US military resources into a Vietnam-style campaign.
State Department officials have recommended spending $300 million to bolster security after a series of embarrassing mishaps at their headquarters in Washington. The disappearance earlier this year of a laptop computer containing secret nuclear information, and the discovery last year of a possible Russian listening device in a department conference room, prompted efforts to tighten security procedures. New spending would allow the department to hire 900 more staff and improve the building's security.
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