Bush launches campaign for tax cut

After two weeks of warm-ups in which he pushed education and religious-based help plans, President Bush is ready to launch the sales job for the centerpiece of his economic program a sweeping $1.6 trillion, 10-year tax cut.

The White House has a full schedule of activities this week, starting today when Bush was set to appear with a carefully selected group of American families much like he did during the campaign to illustrate the benefits of reducing individual tax rates.

He planned to meet tomorrow with small business owners and on Wednesday scheduled a White House reunion with his tax families from the campaign trail. The outlines of his tax program are to be formally sent Thursday to Congress.

One decision the administration is likely to make before sending the plan to Congress is whether to speed up the tax relief by making it retroactive to the first of this year as a way of fighting off a recession.

“A tax cut now will stimulate our economy and create jobs,” Bush said over the weekend. He pointed to what he called “troubling” economic news of rising energy prices, job layoffs and falling consumer confidence that the president said the government must combat.

Serb government may lose U.S. support

Serbia”s pro-democracy government may lose financial and political support from the United States unless it shows evidence of cooperation with the U.N. court that indicted Slobodan Milosevic, the republic”s prime minister said yesterday.

Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, speaking at the Belgrade airport after meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington, cited a March 31 deadline set by Congress to produce solid evidence of cooperation with the war crimes tribunal.

He said he was warned that failure to cooperate will mean the United States, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as well as other world bodies, could vote against Serbian interests.

“If we don”t agree by March 31 on what constitutes “quality cooperation” with the international war crimes court, it would entail a kind of confrontation that we don”t need and, I think, the U.S. doesn”t need that either,” Djindjic said.

The United States has earmarked $100 million for post-Milosevic Yugoslavia. The unused portion of that money will not be disbursed if Yugoslavia refuses to cooperate in the U.N. investigation into wartime atrocities during the 1989-99 crackdown on Kosovo Albanians, including Milosevic.

Student stabbed to death in dorm room

A student was found dead in his residence hall room at Gallaudet University, a school for the hearing-impaired, was stabbed to death, District of Columbia police said yesterday.

Benjamin Varner of San Antonio, Texas, had multiple stab wounds to the head and body, said police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile.

He was found Saturday morning in a fourth-floor room of Cogswell Hall. That is the same dormitory where freshman Eric F. Plunkett of Burnsville, Minn., was found beaten to death in a first-floor room Sept. 28.

Police Chief Charles Ramsey said there is no evidence of a link between the two deaths, but investigators are looking into the possibility that there could be a connection.

Security was tight at the campus yesterday.

Delta, Continental considering merger

Delta Air Lines, the nation”s third-largest carrier, and Continental Airlines reportedly have begun merger talks in which Continental would acquire the much larger Delta.

The discussions are “very informal” and “in the very early stage,” an industry source told The Washington Post on condition of anonymity.

Neither Atlanta-based Delta nor Houston-based Continental, the fifth-largest carrier, would comment yesterday.

“Delta has a longstanding policy of not commenting on rumors regarding mergers or consolidation,” spokesman Reid Davis said. A Continental spokeswoman referred to a statement the airline gave the Post on Saturday.

“Continental has had and anticipates it will continue to have discussions with third parties regarding strategic alternatives,” spokesman Dave Messing said.

U.S. volunteer freed from Chechnya

An American worker for the aid group Doctors Without Borders was released unharmed after nearly a month of captivity in rebel Chechnya and said yesterday he would consider going back to work in the war-ravaged region.

“I feel OK,” 38-year-old Kenneth Gluck said in brief remarks broadcast on television from Khankala, where the Russian military operation in Chechnya is headquartered. “The kidnappers treated me quite well. They did not beat me or anything.”

Gluck was freed Saturday night in an operation conducted by the Federal Security Service, which directs the Russian campaign against rebels in Chechnya, said service spokesman Alexander Zdanovich in Khankala.

Agents of the service had been following Gluck”s kidnappers for days but had been unable to act “without putting his life in danger,” Zdanovich said.

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