News In Brief

As expected, Al Gore and George W. Bush clinched their respective Democratic and Republican nominations for president after the Southern "super Tuesday" primaries. In sending an e-mail to Bush afterward, Gore challenged his rival to agree to ban unregulated "soft money" contributions from both campaigns. The vice president also invited Bush to hold an initial debate in two weeks. The Texas governor declined the proposals, saying it was too soon to start national debates.

The US trade deficit surged to an all-time high of $338.9 billion last year, more than $100 billion higher than the deficit for 1998, the Commerce Department reported. It said the deficit in the current account, which measures not only trade in goods and services but also investment flows and foreign and foreign-aid payments, was up 53.7 percent from the previous record, a $220.6 billion imbalance in 1998.

As work proceeds rapidly on mapping the basic human genetic code, President Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair called for scientists worldwide to have free access to the research. Some investors took the announcement as a stand against the efforts of private companies to make profits from proprietary research on the matter. The Nasdaq biotech index subsequently closed down 12.56 percent Tuesday. But a White House official later insisted the announcement was "meant to foster competition."

A Florida judge threw out the nation's first statewide school voucher system, ruling that the state Constitution bars spending public money on private education. Fifty-two children at private schools in Pensacola under the program can finish the year, but the state can't implement the law otherwise, the judge said. Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who championed the program, promised to find the money to keep it going. An appeal is expected.

A former US Olympic official pleaded guilty to tax fraud in a case that links the Salt Lake City bribery scandal to Rome's failed bid for the 2004 Summer Games. Alfredo La Mont, former US Olympic Committee director of international affairs, was accused of creating a sham company to hide a consulting agreement with the Utah city's bid officials. He also was charged with failing to pay taxes on $40,000 from the Rome bid committee in exchange for trying to influence International Olympic Committee votes in the Italian capital's favor.

In an insider trading case said to be the first to involve the Internet, 19 people were charged with illegally pocketing more than $8 million from secrets shared in online chat rooms. Two of the organizers pleaded guilty. One of them, John J. Freeman of Brooklyn, N.Y., allegedly stole data while working at two investment banks. The FBI said defendants believed their use of the Web was anonymous.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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