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Head of inquiry reaches Kuwait

The Marine general investigating the fatal bombing exercise in Kuwait will have authority not only to look for what caused the accident but also to recommend whether anyone should be brought before a disciplinary board, the Pentagon said.

Lt. Gen. Michael P. DeLong, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, arrived in Kuwait on Thursday to begin the investigation into the military exercise in which three bombs were misdirected.

Meanwhile, the remains of the five American servicemen and one New Zealand military officer who died arrived at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. They received military honors in a brief ceremony in the rain. Autopsies will be conducted at nearby Landstuhl Medical Center.

Bush on finance reform

President Bush signaled to lawmakers Thursday that he favors legislation meant to slow "soft money" donations to political parties. But he reaffirmed he would stop short of the sweeping ban sought by Sens. John McCain and Russell Feingold.

In another potential blow to the senators' bill, labor leaders announced their opposition to the measure.

In a one-page "statement of principles" sent to lawmakers, Bush said he wants to ban corporate and union donations to political parties.

He would not ban individuals' party donations, as McCain, R-Ariz., and Feingold, D-Wis., would. Bush also said he favors legislation that would bar corporations from using their funds for political activities without the permission of shareholders, and to require unions to get their members' approval before using dues for such activities.

Anti-abortion push starts

House Republicans on Thursday opened a coordinated campaign for new restrictions on abortion, starting with a bill that would impose penalties on people who harm a fetus during an assault on a pregnant woman.

As a House panel began work on the proposal making it a federal crime to injure or kill a fetus during an attack, abortion foes and supporters alike said the bill signaled the beginning of an effort to capitalize on President Bush's election and enact legislation stymied by former President Bill Clinton.

Rangers to wear tan berets

In a concession to the elite Rangers, the Army has approved their request to switch the color of their distinctive beret _ to tan from the black that is going to be the standard beret color for most of the rest of Army starting in June.

The decision appeared to settle the major element of a controversy that has drawn the attention of key members of Congress and even President Bush, who recently asked Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to look into the controversy over beret fashion.

From the census . . .

NEW YORK PASSES 8-MILLION: Pushed largely by Hispanics and Asians, the population of New York City reached a record 8-million last year and accounted for two-thirds of the state's overall increase in the 1990s, census figures showed Thursday. The nation's most populous city grew by more than 600,000 people, or 9.4 percent, during the last decade. Staten Island and Queens led the way as the state's fastest-growing counties.

COUNT CALLED BETTER: The Census Bureau released new estimates Thursday that it said support its conclusion that the latest head count of the nation's population was one of the most accurate ever.

Also Thursday . . .

FEWER POLICE KILLED: Forty-two law enforcement officers were killed on duty in the United States in 1999, the lowest number on record, the FBI said Thursday. In 1998, 61 were killed. The drop is consistent with an eight-year nationwide decline in major crimes.

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