News In Brief

The new US-China trade accord is likely to produce a bruising battle in a Congress already gearing up for elections in 2000, analysts said. In return for China removing trade barriers, the administration must persuade lawmakers to grant Beijing favorable access to US markets. Groups in both parties have raised concerns about human rights, labor practices, and environmental standards in China - not to mention its relationship with Taiwan and alleged Chinese espionage in the US. On the other hand, a potent business lobby will support the agreement.

The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether school districts can give students a virtually unlimited right to participate in student-led group prayers at football games. The justices said they will review decisions that struck down a Galveston, Texas, school-board policy as a violation of the constitutionally protected separation of church and state.

Tensions mounted in Decatur, Ill., where 2,000 people marched in support of six black students expelled from high school after a brawl at a football game. Most of the marchers were bused in from Chicago; a Ku Klux Klan counter-demonstration was conducted by a dozen members from Indiana. Human-rights activist Jesse Jackson asked for volunteers to demonstrate with him today in favor of leniency and possibly force officials to make some arrests. Under pressure, the school board has voted to trim the expulsions from two school years to one and let the students attend alternative-education programs. Their supporters want them returned sooner.

The cockpit voice recorder from EgyptAir Flight 990 provided no immediate answers to many questions surrounding the crash that killed 217 people Oct. 31. Federal officials said it was unclear whether a mechanical problem or criminal act caused the tragedy. A source said the voice-recorder tape indicates pilot and copilot were trying to fix something, but then cockpit alarms sound and the tape ends.

President Clinton gave in to demands for limits on federally subsidized abortion activity overseas and, in turn, won support for almost $1 billion to pay some of the nation's outstanding dues to the UN. The deal with conservatives, which removed one of the toughest hurdles in the budget standoff with Republicans, was bitterly opposed by the abortion-rights community and by some Democrats in Congress.

The Hubble space telescope will not be able to transmit any pictures to Earth until the next, much-delayed space-shuttle mission, the US space agency said. The failure of one of Hubble's three remaining gyroscope-pointing systems has made further scientific observations impossible, a spokeswoman explained. The pointing systems aim the observatory at its celestial targets. Technical problems with the shuttle fleet have forced repeated delays in the mission to repair Hubble.

As Federal Reserve policymakers prepared to meet today, economists were divided on whether to raise interest rates. But there was general agreement that - no matter what the Fed does this week - it will not take any further actions this year that could jolt markets concerned about possible year-2000 computer problems.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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