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Nation in brief

Revised faith-based initiative approved

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 10, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Abandoning President Bush's larger "faith-based initiative," the Senate passed scaled-back legislation Wednesday granting new tax breaks for charitable donations.

The initiative began as an effort to open government programs to churches, synagogues and other religious organizations, but that proved so contentious that backers dropped those provisions from the bill.

The revised measure was approved 95-5.

It now provides a variety of tax breaks for charity donations. It also provides $1.3-billion more over two years for the Social Services Block Grant, a favorite of Democrats.

The White House said it supports many elements of the bill but strongly opposes the increased money for the social services program. President Bush suggested he wanted to see changes to more closely reflect his proposals.

It was unclear what the bill's fate would be in the House.

As passed by the Senate, the bill would give people who do not itemize on their taxes a break for donations to charity beyond $250 in any one year, up to $500. The new tax deduction would expire in two years.

It provides $150-million for a new fund to help small charities, including religious groups, expand their programs.

GUN LAWSUITS: The GOP-controlled House on Wednesday passed legislation to protect the firearms industry from lawsuits that allege links between gun marketing and street violence.

House Republicans said the industry is being attacked through frivolous suits blaming gun manufacturers and dealers for violence by criminals. The legislation passed by a 285-140 vote. The bill has not yet been considered by the Senate.

Dad who shot molester gets out of jail early

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Gov. Mike Foster granted early release to a man imprisoned for shooting his 13-year-old daughter's molester, saying the father should not serve more time than the girl's attacker.

Foster gave Allie "Bo" Johnson double credit for good behavior, allowing him to go free after serving nearly three years of a seven-year sentence for attempted manslaughter.

"This does not mean I condone his actions," Foster said in a statement. "I do not support taking the law into your own hands."

In 1998, the girl told her parents that Donald Wayne Spears had taken her and two other girls into a woods and molested two of them.

Johnson said he and his wife, frustrated by the pace of the Beauregard Parish sheriff's investigation, lured Spears to a back road, where Johnson shot him.

Spears survived the shooting and served two years and eight months in prison on two counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile.

In other news ...

ATKINS IN HOSPITAL: Low-carbohydrate diet promoter Robert Atkins was hospitalized in New York on Wednesday with severe head injuries after falling on an icy sidewalk, his spokesman said. Atkins, 72, fell Tuesday outside the Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine, spokesman Richard Rothstein said. Atkins underwent surgery for severe head trauma, Rothstein said.

IMMUNITY GRANTED: Lawmakers tried to boost their two-year investigation into the FBI's ties to mob informants by granting immunity Wednesday to University of Massachusetts president William Bulger and former New England crime boss Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme in exchange for congressional testimony.

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