News In Brief

President Clinton launched new peace talks between Israel and Syria, saying: "We have never had such an extraordinary opportunity to reach a comprehensive settlement." The president was to meet separately with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa before they began their own talks.

San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown coasted to a reelection victory, defeating the challenge of a liberal stand-up comic who had hoped to become the first openly gay mayor of a major US city. It appeared Brown might post a 2-to-1 win over Tom Ammiano, the powerful president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors whose last-minute campaign was credited with bringing a new crop of volunteers into the political process.

New York City transit workers agreed to a new contract, averting a walkout that could have affected 3.5 million commuters. The agreement came after a judge ruled a strike would be illegal and punishable by fines of millions of dollars. Contract terms were not disclosed.

"Peanuts" cartoonist Charles Schulz announced his retirement, marking the end of one of the world's most widely read comic strips. The last original daily strip will appear Jan. 3 and the final Sunday release will appear Feb. 13. United Feature Syndicate, which has distributed "Peanuts" for almost five decades, will reissue old strips at least through the end of 2000.

Minimum compensation for lost, damaged, or delayed baggage will rise to $2,500 on domestic-airline flights after a 30-day posting period, the Transportation Department said. That is double the current minimum. The announcement came as major US airlines launched customer-service plans agreed to in September, which require them to quote lowest fares or cheaper travel options when people call for reservations, to give customers at least 24 hours to cancel ticket purchases, and to keep them informed at 15- to 20-minute intervals during flight delays.

New aid to teenagers moving from foster care to independence was signed into law by Clinton. The Foster Care Independence Act extends educational opportunities, access to health care, housing assistance, and other benefits up to age 21. Previously, those leaving foster care were cut off from federal support at age 18 or as soon as they graduated from high school.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) should focus on providing emergency loans, Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said. He called for the IMF to stop extending medium- and long-term financing, leaving that to the World Bank. The IMF has been widely criticized for its handling of a global economic crisis over the past 2-1/2 years.

As many as nine Cuban detainees were holding three hostages in a Louisiana jail uprising while negotiating for safe passage out of the US. The Cubans had allowed five fellow prisoners to leave St. Martin Parish jail in St. Martinville for medical reasons. Absence of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana often leaves Cuban citizens who commit crimes in the US languishing in custody for years before their cases are resolved.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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