News In Brief

By , Judy Nichols, and Stephanie Cook

A Justice Department plan to reunite Elian Gonzalez with his Cuban father at a Miami-area airport was put on hold while efforts were made to arrange a meeting between Juan Miguel Gonzalez and the child's Miami relatives. A likely venue appeared to be Washington, but Lazaro Gonzalez, Elian's great-uncle, also proposed a location in south Florida. In any case, the father has said previously he wouldn't meet with the relatives until he had custody. Immigration officials said they'd reinstate their own plan if a meeting wasn't arranged within a day.

Despite a decline in youth violence, more students are being punished and public fear about violence is on the rise, the Justice Policy Institute reported. Citing Maryland, the report said suspensions for false alarms and bomb threats rose 44 percent from the 1997-98 school year to 1998-99. Yet nationwide, youth-homicide arrests dropped 56 percent from 1993 to 1998. But two-thirds of people polled by The Washington Post said they believed children were becoming more violent. The report recommends more counseling, balanced media coverage of school shootings, and tougher gun-control laws.

House Republicans passed a bill that would strengthen gun enforcement by rewarding states that impose tough mandatory minimum sentences on armed criminals. The measure provides $100 million over five years for states that sentence people who use or carry guns during violent crimes or drug-trafficking offenses to at least five years in prison without parole. The White House and Democrats went along with the bill but said it provided too little money to make a difference. (Related story, page 1.)

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The Senate rejected a temporary 4.3-cent rollback in the federal gasoline tax. The issue had lost some steam as the fuel price rise slowed across the US and oil-producing nations agreed to increase their output.

President Clinton unveiled a compensation package for ailing workers exposed to radiation at US nuclear-weapons plants during the cold war. It would offer lump-sum payments of at least $100,000 to workers or their survivors, or allow them to negotiate amounts to cover medical costs, lost wages, and job retraining, sources close to the proposal said. Some 3,000 former plant workers or their families are eligible. The estimated $400 million-a-year plan would need congressional approval.

A stinging federal audit claimed Boston's "Big Dig" managers hid crucial financial information about the nation's largest highway project, prompting Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci (R) to fire its chief. Andrew Natsios, the state's finance secretary, was appointed to take over from the ousted James Kerasiotes. State legislators now must craft a bailout plan for the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel project, which the audit estimated to cost $13.6 billion - $2.8 billion more than managers quoted Feb. 1.

In commemorating the 30th anniversary of Earth Day, Clinton is expected to announce on Saturday a 355,000-acre national monument to protect groves of giant sequoia trees in California, the White House said. But the president is likely to run into criticism from some members of Congress, who argue he has bypassed their authority in creating such monuments.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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