News In Brief

Independent counsel Robert Ray is considering seeking an indictment against President Clinton after he leaves office next January for trying to hide his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, The Washington Post reported. Among the criminal charges being weighed are perjury, obstruction of justice, making false statements, and conspiracy to commit those crimes when questioned under oath, the newspaper said. The investigation also is exploring allegations that Clinton made false statements about his relationship with Kathleen Willey. Ray was a top aide to Kenneth Starr and replaced him last October.

The Post also reported the independent counsel is likely to issue final reports this summer about firings from the White House travel office and by fall about the Clintons' Whitewater investment. But Ray's office won't seek indictments in either case, the newspaper said, which means that Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign in New York won't be tarnished by criminal charges related to those situations.

The Justice Department said it planned to send a letter imminently to the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez, giving them instructions on how to reunite the boy with his Cuban father. The transfer would be ordered to take place by Friday, a department official said. Earlier, an estimated 15,000 people rallied and prayed at the relatives' home.

US officials cannot hold criminal immigrants indefinitely after they serve prison sentences when their home countries won't take them back, the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled 3 to 0. The immigrants must be released 90 days after a final deportation order and be allowed to remain free - under close supervision by the Immigration and Naturalization Service - until their home countries reach an agreement to accept deportees, Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in his opinion. An INS spokesman responded that the government probably will appeal to the Supreme Court. The decision affects an estimated 3,500 immigrants nationwide.

In a deal that already was being billed as a possible model for other HMOs, Aetna U.S. Healthcare agreed to stop rewarding or firing doctors over whether they limit patients' treatment. The deal settled Aetna's part in a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas in 1998, the attorney general there indicated. Aetna has 960,000 Texans in its HMO, making it the largest such organization in the state.

The 2000 Census reached its minimum goal for responses with 61 percent of US households mailing back completed forms. But the survey's director said the return rate of long forms has been lagging about 12 percent behind that of short forms, perhaps because of concerns - voiced by some congressional Republicans - that the questions are too invasive. Census officials have said they hope to reach a national response rate of 70 percent. Beginning April 27, workers will visit households that haven't returned forms.

Almost five months after the National Zoo's last giant panda was put to sleep, the Chinese government has agreed to lend another pair of the rare animals to the Washington institution for 10 years, The Washington Post reported. The necessary preparations could mean the pandas won't arrive for more than a year, however.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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