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Silence from the Mars Polar Lander became increasingly ominous as scientists continued to try to make contact over the weekend with the $165 million spacecraft after its scheduled landing Friday near the south pole of the Red Planet. Also remaining stubbornly silent were two Deep Space probes, valued at $29.2 million. The mission - the first to Mars since the $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter was lost in September due to human error - was supposed to search for signs of water and clues to the Martian climate.

The collapse of world trade negotiations in Seattle may strengthen the hand of labor and environmental groups pressing Congress to reject President Clinton's landmark trade agreement with China, analysts said. Congress must vote to grant Beijing permanent trade privileges as part of the deal that would open China's vast market potential to US businesses. The trade-talks failure was seen as a major defeat for Clinton.

Live-fire military training on Vieques Island will end immediately and the Navy facility there will be abandoned in five years unless local residents agree to allow such exercises to continue, Clinton said. Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossello, who has insisted the Navy leave immediately, called the decision "unacceptable." The Navy owns two-thirds of Vieques and has conducted live-fire training there since 1941. Under the president's proposal, training without live weapons would take place a maximum of 90 days a year for another five years. Live-fire training can currently be conducted up to 180 days annually.

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US cities are experiencing a historically high level of violence, an update of a landmark study found. The new report from the Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation says violent crime in major cities as reported to the FBI has risen 40 percent over the past three decades. The private foundation, named for the brother of the late president, has been updating a 1969 report of the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence established by President Johnson. The new study says recent reports of declining US crime rates ignore long-term trends.

Federal agents arrested two militia members in connection with an alleged plan to blow up a large propane storage facility near Sacramento, Calif. The arrests of Kevin Ray Patterson of Camino and Charles Dennis Kiles of Placerville came after a nearly year-long FBI probe into a potential threat to the Suburban Propane facility in Elk Grove and other targets, the US Attorney's Office said. The Sacramento Bee said the men, members of a San Joaquin County militia, had been stockpiling illegal weapons.

A van apparently packed with undocumented farm workers crashed into a tractor-trailer on an icy New Mexico interstate near Albuquerque, killing 13 people. A Border Patrol spokesman said authorities found documents in the van that suggest the occupants were Mexican nationals from Chiapas and Oaxaca. Officials said the vehicle's rear seats had been removed in an effort to accommodate 16 passengers in addition to the driver, who was among four survivors of the crash.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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