Rehnquist Requests More Court Funding

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist has sent congressional leaders a letter warning them that they have failed to provide enough money to operate the federal court system in the upcoming year.

Noting that a spending bill passed by the Senate would provide $280 million less than the president's $4.1 billion budget request, Rehnquist wrote in an Aug. 9 letter, "such a cut in the judiciary's budget is both unjustified and impractical." The bill passed by the House would cut less -- $180 million -- but Rehnquist said this reduction "also would have a noticeable adverse impact on court operations."

"As you know," Rehnquist wrote, "the courts do not control their workload but rather must respond to filings created in large part by Congress' expansion of the federal courts' jurisdiction. I therefore urge you to provide the necessary funding for the judiciary for FY 2000."

House Appropriations committee spokeswoman Elizabeth Morra noted that the House gave the courts an additional $235 million this year -- the second-highest increase behind funding for the Immigration and Naturalization Service -- while still maintaining a strict limit on overall spending.

"We have done our very best to prioritize under the very tight budget restrictions of the 1997 budget agreement," Morra said.

U.S. Freezes Assets Of Afghan Airline

The United States froze the U.S. assets of Afghanistan's Ariana national airline under sanctions designed to punish the Taliban movement for harboring Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden, the White House said Tuesday.

National Security Council spokesman David Leavy told reporters the U.S. move would freeze roughly $500,000 in assets held by the airline.

"The United States has designated Ariana Afghan Airlines under the Taliban sanctions today, blocking all of Ariana's assets within U.S. jurisdiction," Leavy said, adding that the move would prevent U.S. companies and individuals from doing business with the airline.

The United States on July 6 banned trade with parts of Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban in retaliation for its protection of bin Laden, whom Washington accuses of masterminding the bombing of U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, a year ago.

USDA Probes New Complaints of Racism

The Agriculture Department is investigating complaints that black farmers were improperly denied disaster assistance in Arkansas and Georgia this year -- even as the department was settling a multimillion-dollar civil rights lawsuit.

The complaints involve three of the Farm Service Agency's county offices in Arkansas and two in Georgia. A team from the department's civil rights office was in Georgia last week, officials said Tuesday.

Rosalind Gray, director of the civil rights office, said the department would "take appropriate action" when the investigations are completed.

Last April, a federal judge approved the settlement of a class action lawsuit alleging that USDA had regularly denied black farmers loans and other assistance because of their race.