News In Brief

President Clinton freed another $125 million to help low-income families pay high heating-oil bills. He also asked Congress for $600 million in emergency assistance for the situation. But Energy Secretary Bill Richardson expressed hope that oil prices will stabilize soon, following news that Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, OPEC heavyweights, were interested in trying to calm the oil market.

The Air Force said it will not court-martial a 14-year pilot who questioned the safety of the military's anthrax vaccine and refused a mandatory inoculation. Maj. Sonnie Bates instead agreed to an administrative hearing that could result in lesser sanctions, officials at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware said. The compromise came as a House Government Reform subcommittee prepared a report charging that the anthrax inoculations were based on "a paucity of science" and should be suspended.

Tobacco farmers filed a federal class-action lawsuit seeking $69 billion from cigarettemakers. The suit alleges that the companies misled the growers into helping to stop congressional legislation in 1998 that would have paid them $28 billion for reduced quotas. The companies later reached a settlement with the states that will provide growers with just $5.15 billion. The 4,010 plaintiffs also say the cigarette industry is trying to put them out of business so it can choose which producers it wishes to contract with. An industry spokesman called the suit groundless and frivolous.

Federal and New York State authorities launched inquiries into whether DoubleClick Inc. improperly amassed personal details about Internet users. Word came after an advocacy group complained that the online ad firm misled users by collecting confidential data on their habits and identities with the intent to sell it to advertisers. Double Click launched a counterattack, placing 50 million ads online.

Federal regulators are expanding services that phone companies must make available to callers with disabilities. The Federal Communications Commission was expected to require a new plan that lets users speak directly to an operator, trained to identify speech patterns of those with disabilities, who would relay the messages to callers on the other end of the line.

Internet connections in US public schools jumped from slightly more than one-third in 1994 to 95 percent in 1999, an Education Department survey reported. But the poll also found that less-wealthy schools were lagging behind: 39 percent of individual classrooms in poor areas have Web access, while 74 percent in wealthier schools were connected.

A radio signal that reignited the search for NASA's wayward Mars Polar Lander most likely did not originate from the Red Planet after all, engineers concluded after further review. The mystery signal probably came from satellites circling Earth or another source close to home, a researcher at Stanford University in California said.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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