House OKs half a trillion

to fund Cabinet agencies

WASHINGTON - The House last night approved a half-trillion-dollar measure funding 14 Cabinet agencies, setting the stage for a year-end budget deal with the White House. President Bush has signaled he'll ultimately sign the measure despite opposition from GOP conservatives.

The vote in favor of the bill was 253-154; a subsequent vote to add $31 billion for troops in Afghanistan to the measure would send the $516 billion spending package to the Senate for debate today.

The year-end measure mostly sticks within Bush's budget, though it shifts billions of dollars into politically sensitive programs he sought to cut. Bush signaled he would sign the measure, awarding a 4 percent increase, on average, to domestic programs.

Bush's approval depends on Senate Republicans succeeding, later this week, in adding up to $40 billion for U.S. troops in Iraq.

Little girl a heroine in Detroit,

takes shots intended for mom

DETROIT - As the gunman was about to open fire, 7-year-old Alexis Goggins lunged from the back seat of the SUV and threw herself across her mom, crying, "Don't hurt my mother!"

Six bullets from the 9 mm handgun slammed into Alexis, one piercing her right eye. Two slugs hit her mother.

Alexis' mother pulled through. But two weeks later, Alexis lies in critical condition, blind in one eye. And to her classmates and many people in this city so depressingly familiar with violence, the little girl is a hero.

"She was trying to save me," her mother, Seliethia Parker, 30, told the AP yesterday. "My baby is just an angel to her mother. I thought as the mother, I'd be saving my child. I never thought my daughter would be saving me."

As for the mother, she was seriously wounded, with one slug grazing her head and the other entering her chest and stopping just short of an artery. But she was released from the hospital just a few days later.

Parker's former boyfriend, Calvin Tillie, a 29-year-old ex-convict on parole, was arrested in the shooting and charged with two counts of assault with intent to commit murder, along with other offenses. He could get life in prison.

100,000 customers in the dark

a week after Okla. ice storm

OKLAHOMA CITY - More than 100,000 homes and businesses remained without power yesterday, more than a week after an ice storm battered Oklahoma, and the emergency has outlasted the ability of many residents to pay for it.

Some depleted their funds stocking up on food before the storm that went bad after the power went out, while others used money to stay in a hotel, thinking power would be restored within a day or two.

"We've had people using generators who ran out of money for fuel to operate the generators," said Vince Hernandez, chairman of the American Red Cross of Central Oklahoma.

The state medical examiner's office said the ice storm contributed to at least 27 deaths: 16 in traffic accidents, eight in fires, two from carbon monoxide fumes and one from hypothermia.

In Kansas, where six deaths were blamed on last week's storm, about 24,000 customers remained without power, and some of those in rural areas might not see electricity restored for a week or more. The reason is another winter storm expected later this week, said Larry Detwiler of the Kansas Electric Cooperatives.

Mexicans at border complain

about tear gas, pepper spray

SAN DIEGO - Border Patrol agents are firing tear gas and powerful pepper-spray weapons across the border into Mexico to repel what the agency says are an increasing number of attacks by assailants hurling rocks, bottles and bricks.

The counteroffensive has drawn complaints that innocent families are being caught in the crossfire.

"A neighbor shouted, 'Stop it! There are children living here," said Esther Arias Medina, 41, who on Wednesday fled her Tijuana, Mexico, shanty with her 3-week-old grandson after the infant began coughing from smoke that seeped through the walls.

A helmeted agent on the U.S. side said nothing as he stood with a rifle on top of a 10-foot border fence next to the three-room home that Arias shares with six others.

"We don't deserve this," Arias said. "The people who live here don't throw rocks. Those are people who come from the outside, but we're paying the price."

The Border Patrol says its agents have been attacked nearly 1,000 times during a one-year period. *

- Daily News wire services