News In Brief

In tonight's State of the Union address, President Clinton is expected to map out what he'd like Congress to approve during his final year in office, including health-insurance programs, education initiatives, and tax breaks for the working poor. Analysts said the speech also would attempt to bolster the political ambitions of Vice President Al Gore, who's in the midst of his own bid for the presidency.

As expected, Sen. Orrin Hatch announced he was quitting the presidential race following his last-place finish in Iowa's Republican caucuses. He remains a candidate for reelection to the Senate, where he has represented Utah since 1977.

The Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez agreed to a Justice Department order to bring the boy to a neutral location to meet alone with his grandmothers, a department spokeswoman said. The meeting was to take place in Miami, following an unsuccessful try by Raquel Rodriguez and Mariela Quintana to visit Elian privately Monday. The two women spent Tuesday in Washington making their case, which is to return the six-year-old to his father in Cuba.

Security at US nuclear-weapons laboratories has improved substantially, the Energy Department's top security official reported. But Eugene Habiger, who was hired as the department's "security czar" after an uproar last year over alleged Chinese espionage at the labs, cautioned that work remains unfinished in safeguarding classified computer systems. A December review gave a satisfactory rating to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, which has been under intense scrutiny after employee Wen Ho Lee was fired last year for alleged security violations.

NASA made another attempt to contact to the wayward Mars Polar Lander after a review of data revealed what might have been an extremely weak signal from Mars Dec. 18 or Jan. 4. The fresh set of radio commands instructed the aircraft to send a signal to a huge antenna at Stanford University in California.

Clinton released about $45 million in emergency federal funds to help low-income families in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and Alaska pay for home heating oil. A recent cold snap and production cuts by OPEC have driven up fuel costs this winter. Some lawmakers urged Clinton to sell oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to reduce prices, but Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said the stockpile was created in the mid-1970s to counter interruptions in oil supplies - not to manipulate costs.

An East Coast storm dumped as much as two feet of snow in some areas and disrupted transportation and electricity in many cities. North Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency, while some 250,000 federal government workers were told to stay home for the second day in a row. Tuesday's shutdown in the capital cost taxpayers about $60 million in lost work, the Office of Personnel Management estimated.

Young teens in rural America are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and use illegal drugs than their urban counterparts, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reported. Its study found rural eighth-graders are 50 percent more likely to use cocaine.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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