News In Brief

The crew that repaired the Hubble Space Telescope 370 miles above Earth is scheduled to return today after successfully completing an eight-day mission. The Discovery space-shuttle astronauts were able to install 13 gear boxes needed to get the $3 billion, nine-year-old telescope safely floating in its own orbit again. The observatory had closed Nov. 13 due to gyroscopic breakdowns, but now is expected to return to service in two weeks, after its alignment is adjusted.

Wen Ho Lee, who is charged with stealing US nuclear secrets, could be held for a year or more without bail if an appeal by his attorney, scheduled to begin today in Albuquerque, N.M., fails. Mr. Lee faces possible life in prison if found guilty of transferring classified information to his desktop computer and portable data tapes. He was fired from the Los Alamos (N.M.) National Laboratory in March and indicted Dec. 10. US Magistrate Don Svet ruled Dec. 13 that releasing Lee on bail would pose a "clear and present danger" to national security, even though Lee is not accused of sharing nuclear secrets with foreign governments.

The run on banks by cash-anxious customers has so far not materialized in the countdown to the new millennium. Typically, cash withdrawals rise over the holiday period, but a 10 percent increase at the Bank of America falls within the normal seasonal range, the Los Angeles Times reported. Anticipating that customers might try to hoard cash in anticipation of Y2K glitches, US banks have more than doubled the amount of currency in their vaults over the past three months.

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Pharmaceutical companies are subject to a significantly lower tax rate than any other industrial sector, a congressional study has found. While other major industries pay an average tax rate of 27.3 percent, drugmakers paid an effective rate of 16.2 percent between 1993 and 1996. This discovery comes as Congress prepares to reexamine the cost of drugs and why some are cheaper in Canada and Mexico than in the US.

Police reportedly received a lead in their manhunt of a suspected bomb-plot conspirator in Washington State. A reservations clerk reported selling Adbelmajed Dahoumane an airplane ticket to Las Vegas. He is thought to have shared a motel room in Canada with Algerian-born Ahmed Ressam, who is in custody on charges of trying to smuggle bomb parts into the US. His arrest and that of suspected terrorists in Vermont could bolster support for a controversial law set to take effect in 2001. It would require tracking foreigners who enter the US, a statute that might result in longer lines at ports of entry.

Southern California's mountain yellow-legged frog will go on the endangered species list, pending final approval of a US Fish and Wildlife Service proposal announced last week. Probably fewer than 100 of the rare frogs survive in the Los Angeles basin. The presumed causes of their precipitous decline since the 1960s are the introduction of predatory trout into area streams, intensive recreation, and air pollution.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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