Senate Republicans block terror bill

WASHINGTON

Senate Republicans yesterday blocked a Democratic bill to shore up the economy and increase spending on domestic security, creating an impasse expected to force both parties and the White House into high-level negotiations to craft a compromise measure.

In party-line votes both 51-47 the Senate invoked procedural objections to the Democratic bill, which would provide a total of 73 billion for health insurance subsidies and other benefits for the unemployed, tax cuts for individuals and businesses, and new spending for homeland security.

The votes were a victory for Republicans who want to force Democrats to write a bill more in line with President Bush”s priorities, which put more emphasis on tax cuts and less on new spending. But Republicans acknowledged that they too lacked the votes to pass their preferred bill in the narrowly divided Senate.

“None of this is going to pass,” Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said. “We”re stalled. Let”s go right to the endgame. Let”s put the right people in the room and say “get this job done.””

Vice President Dick Cheney, in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce yesterday, stepped up pressure on Congress to break the impasse.

Berkeley endorses alternative admissions

SAN FRANCISCO

University of California regents yesterday endorsed a major shift in the university”s admissions policy to allow non-academic achievements to be considered for all freshman applicants.

The 13-2 vote by a key regent committee in which the majority included one-time opponents of the plan strongly suggests that the proposal, which would allow consideration of such factors as students” athletic or artistic ability or their struggle against poverty will be approved today by the full Board of Regents.

Critics say the proposal is a backdoor method of reviving race-based preferences in admissions, which were banned by California voters in 1996, and could result both in litigation against the university and a lowering of academic standards. Supporters deny the charges, arguing that grades and test scores alone cannot capture all the qualities that make a good student and ultimately lead to success in college.

“I have always felt that there has to be a better way (to admit students) than just looking at the numbers,” said regent Sherry Lansing, the head of Paramount Pictures and a strong supporter of the change.

Red Cross will use all gifts for victims

WASHINGTON

The American Red Cross announced yesterday that it is speeding up delivery of relief funds for families of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but officials said it would still be months before the organization has plans to deliver all of the more than 543 million in donations it has collected.

The Red Cross also said it no longer plans to pay for long-range projects out of the donations received for the Liberty Fund, which was established following the attacks in New York and Washington.

The Red Cross announced the changes at a press conference at its headquarters in Washington.

“Americans have spoken loudly and clearly that they want our relief efforts directed at the people affected by the Sept. 11 tragedies,”” said Harold Decker, the Red Cross chief executive officer.

Patient with artificial heart suffers stroke

LOUISVILLE, Ky.

The world”s first self-contained artificial heart patient suffered a stroke and is back on a ventilator, but doctors were confident yesterday he would recover from the setback.

Robert Tools, 59, had the stroke Sunday at Jewish Hospital, said Laman Gray, one of the surgeons who implanted the plastic-and-titanium AbioCor heart on July 2.

Robert Dowling, Tools” other surgeon, characterized the patient”s condition as serious.

“His condition is slightly better than someone with a heart because we don”t have to worry about the heart,” Gray said.

Last week, Tools was feeling well enough for an outing with the Louisville mayor to promote dining out. Doctors said Tools” excursions had nothing to do with the stroke.

Buoyed by his progress, doctors had said it was possible he could be home for Christmas.

Meteor storm to be biggest until 2099

NEW YORK

Brew some coffee. Unpack the lawn chairs. Astronomers predict this year”s Leonids meteor display, expected to appear before dawn Sunday, will be a dazzler worth missing a little sleep.

“It”s now or never,” said Robert Naeye of the Astronomy Society of the Pacific. “Astronomers don”t think we”ll see another storm like this one until the year 2099. We will probably never see a better meteor shower in our lifetimes.”

Every year scientists fly to places like the Gobi Desert or Canary Islands to watch the heavens rain fire for a few minutes in November. This year, Earth”s alignment suggests that North America will be squarely beneath some of the most vigorous shooting stars. Pacific Islands and the Far East may see natural fireworks, too.

The most optimistic celestial forecasts call for a steady storm of 4,000 meteors per hour, or about 70 per minute around 5 a.m. EST Sunday.

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