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HOUSE OKS PAYING U.N. $582 MILLION IN BACK DUES

The House voted Monday to speed $582 million in back dues to the United Nations.

The measure, approved by voice vote, passed the Senate, 99-0, on Feb. 7.

The bill was written by Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., a longtime U.N. nemesis and former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman who pushed the measure after stating he was satisfied that the world body was streamlining its operations and reducing America's share of the U.N. budget.

The United States promised in a 1999 law that it would pay $926 million in back dues on the condition that the United Nations reform its huge bureaucracy and cut the financial burden of the United States. The money has been set aside, but thus far only $100 million has been sent.

Former DEA chief sworn in
as head of Customs Service

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A former federal judge and chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration in the early 1990s was sworn in Monday as commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service.

Robert Bonner comes to the agency, which oversees the nation's borders, after the deadliest-ever attacks on U.S. soil. Customs is part of an effort by the U.S. government not only to help identify terrorists but also to deny them access to their money.

The Senate approved Bonner's nomination last week. His most recent job was as a partner with the Los Angeles-based law firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.

From 1990 to 1993, Bonner headed the DEA under the first Bush administration. Before that, he was a federal judge in California, tapped by former President George H. Bush in 1989. Former President Ronald Reagan appointed Bonner U.S. attorney for the Central District of California in 1984, a post he held five years.

DWI-related deaths rise
after 13-year decline

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of people killed by drunken drivers increased last year after 13 years of steady decline, according to federal data released Monday.

Overall highway deaths increased slightly in 2000 to 41,812, up from 41,717 in 1999, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Forty percent of those, or 16,653, involved alcohol, up from 38 percent, or 15,976, the previous year.

It's the first time alcohol-related deaths have increased since 1986, when 24,045 people were killed.

Over the past two decades, auto safety advocates have pushed successfully for tougher impaired-driving laws and made drinking and driving a social taboo. Advocates say more needs to be done to reach problem drinkers.

Arson attempt at synagogue
causes only minor damage

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) -- An arson attempt at the city's only synagogue resulted only in minor damage after a neighbor reported suspicious activity to police.

The attempt early Sunday was the third apparent hate crime at Temple Beth El in recent weeks, including an incident where someone spray-painted an apparent reference to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Officer Jim Mattheis said it was unclear whether the three acts were related.

Responding to a call from a neighbor, firefighters found two fire-starting logs at about 12:45 a.m., one burning under a main gas line next to the synagogue and the other about 50 feet away near the building, fire investigator Doug McConnell said. The flames were doused and caused less than $1,000 damage, McConnell said.

A week earlier, Rabbi Mark Glickman found the words "Zionism plus U.S. equals 5,000 dead" spray-painted on the synagogue's parking lot. He said police believe a supremacist group was responsible for the graffiti.

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