News In Brief

By , Judy Nichols, and Stephanie Cook

The sharp climb in gasoline costs may have topped out, judging by a report that the average price at the pump dipped almost 2-1/2 cents per gallon in the past two weeks. The California-based Lundberg Survey of 10,000 stations nationwide calculated the average price for all grades of gasoline to have been about $1.57 per gallon last Friday. It was the biggest drop since the winter of 1998 and was mainly due to falling crude-oil prices following the decision by producing countries to increase output, analyst Trilby Lundberg said.

An estimated 2,000 people formed a human chain around the Capitol in Washington in a show of solidarity with countries they say are trapped in poverty because of loans that must be repaid to US-based lending institutions. The event is the first of many planned to coincide with meetings this week and next of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Law-enforcement authorities have been gearing up to avoid any recurrence of the violent protests that marred the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle last year.

Brushing off news that a Central Intelligence Agency employee had been fired and six others disciplined, the government of China rejected US explanations for last year's bombing of its embassy in Yugoslavia. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said claims that the US didn't know the correct location of the embassy are "hard to believe," the official Chinese news agency reported. Zhu reiterated demands that the US thoroughly investigate the bombing and strictly punish those responsible.

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Medicare recipients pay an average of 15 percent more for prescription drugs than patients would whose insurers have negotiated discounts, a Department of Health and Human Services study found. The study was to build support for President Clinton's proposal - costing $195 billion over 10 years - for the government to contract with the same drug-purchasing firms used by many private health plans to get discounts.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development was planning to propose legislation to bar Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both government-sponsored enterprises, from purchasing mortgage loans originated through predatory tactics such as excessive fees. The two corporations, which recently have begun heavier involvement in the subprime-lending market, already are moving to install procedural safeguards, a Fannie Mae spokeswoman said.

Black women returning from abroad were almost twice as likely to be strip-searched by US Customs inspectors as white men and women, and three times as likely as black men, The Washington Post said, citing a new congressional study. The General Accounting Office report found the searches were not justified by a higher rate of discovery of illegal drugs.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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