US authorities announced that six-year-old Elian Gonzalez should be turned over to his father, a Cuban hotel worker, thus ending a tense custody case. The boy has stayed with relatives in Miami since being rescued Nov. 25 off the Florida coast. His mother and 11 other people died in a boating accident while fleeing Cuba. The Immigration and Naturalization Service said Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, though divorced, has the right to speak for his son about where he lives.
A stalemate in peace talks between Israel and Syria, facilitated by the US, was broken and substantive discussions began in Sheperdstown, W. Va. A "general discussion" between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa put the process on track. "They have a work plan and an organizational structure," a State Department spokesman said. This is the first time in four years the Middle East foes have met to address differences over issues such as water rights and claims to the Golan Heights.
Florida State secured the championship of college football's top division - as well as a perfect 12-0 record with a 46-29 victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The win over the previously undefeated Hokies made the Seminoles the first team since the AP began preseason rankings in 1950 to go wire-to-wire as the nation's top-rated team. For head coach Bobby Bowden , the comeback victory capped a season in which he recorded his 300th career win and first perfect season in 40 years on the sidelines.
A US immigration official called the use of cargo containers for smuggling suspected illegal aliens "a troubling new trend." Four containers carrying more than 60 suspected illegal aliens from China have been discovered at ports in Seattle, Los Angeles, and Long Beach, Calif., over the past week. While the number of known aliens is small, immigration officials are worried that far more may go undetected on big ships, which carry as many as a thousand containers.
A Labor Department advisory establishing employer responsibility for the safety of home-based workers met with a wave of criticism from legislators and employer advocates. Leading the charge, Rep. Frank Wolf (R) of West Virginia said if the advisory issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is not rescinded, he'll move to kill it legislatively. The Labor Department said it wants to create a dialogue with employers about worker safety and has neither the desire nor the resources to search private homes for potential violations.
Hillary Rodham Clinton moved into the $1.7 million home in Chappaqua, N.Y., that she and the president bought in order to make her eligible to run for the Senate. Mrs. Clinton intends to scale back her first lady duties and spend considerable time campaigning in New York.
Lawyers for Wen Ho Lee, the former employee of the Los Alamos (N.M.) National Laboratory, gave notice in Denver that they are appealing a Dec. 29 court ruling denying him bail. Lee is being held pending his trial later this year on 59 counts of mishandling nuclear secrets. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
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