- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 5, 2002

Military tax breaks close to passage

American military personnel would get new tax breaks, partly paid for by a tax on people who give up their U.S. citizenship, under legislation that is close to becoming law.

The Senate voted without dissent Thursday night to pass the bill, which must be reconciled with a narrower House bill approved in July. Sponsors were optimistic yesterday that a deal would be struck before Congress adjourns for the year.

It would allow military reservists and National Guard personnel to deduct their service-related travel expenses, whether they itemize or not. It would also fully exempt from taxes the $6,000 in death benefits paid to military survivors; only part of the amount is exempt now.

In addition, capital-gains tax rules would be modified for home sales by service members to reflect their frequent transfers across the country and world.

Buffett pledges to battle risk of nuclear terror

OMAHA, Neb. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, the country's second-wealthiest man, is pledging $2.5 million to help reduce the risk of nuclear terror on U.S. soil.

Mr. Buffet said yesterday that he was making the contribution to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, founded by Ted Turner and former Sen. Sam Nunn, because he believes terrorists want to attack the United States with weapons of mass destruction.

The Nuclear Threat Initiative has been left strapped for cash by a dramatic decline in the stock market. It was founded two years ago with a pledge of stock worth $250 million at the time that Mr. Turner held in AOL Time Warner Inc.

The shares have since declined by nearly 80 percent.

The group has spent about $37 million since January 2001 on projects that include securing nuclear materials stored in Russia and removing uranium from a poorly secured reactor in Belgrade.

Jurors struggled with death sentence

TACOMA, Wash. Jurors who sentenced a 50-year-old father of five to death said they struggled to find mitigating circumstances that would warrant leniency for the serial killer, Robert Lee Yates Jr.

"We didn't find any," juror Renee Rouleau-White told reporters.

Yates showed no reaction when the penalty decision was read Thursday in Pierce County Superior Court.

He was serving a 408-year sentence stemming from a plea agreement two years ago in which he admitted to murdering 13 persons since 1975. The death sentence came from his conviction Sept. 19 in the murders of two more, Melinda Mercer in 1997 and Connie LaFontaine Ellis in 1998.

Officials: Vaccinate emergency workers first

Top federal health officials said yesterday they favor offering the smallpox vaccine in stages: First to all who work in hospital emergency rooms, then to about 10 million health care and emergency workers, then to the general public.

In their first public statements about who they believe should be vaccinated in advance of an attack, health officials emphasized that no decisions have been made, saying the final word rests with the White House.

Health officials did not offer timetables for vaccinations but said they favor waiting until the vaccine is licensed, rather than delivering it as an experimental drug.

Two filling Hughes void

BOSTON The void created in President Bush's White House staff by the departure of adviser Karen Hughes is being partially filled by the addition of Suzy DeFrancis, an old hand of previous Republican administrations, to his communications team.

Longtime Bush aide Dan Bartlett has stepped in to fill much of Mrs. Hughes' role, taking on the title of assistant to the president for communications.

Miss DeFrancis, senior vice president and director of public affairs for the public relations firm Porter Novelli, will be Mr. Bartlett's chief deputy taking the office he used when he served under Mrs. Hughes, Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday.

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