News In Brief

Healthcare, already a hot issue on the presidential campaign trail, heated up even more. Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican nominee, defended Texas' handling of the Medicaid program after a federal judge ruled that the state had failed to care adequately for 1.5 million low-income children. In ordering the system improved, William Wayne Justice, a Democrat, indicated Texas was not providing sufficient dental care, transportation to doctors, or information about what services are available to children in Medicaid - despite a 1996 agreement in effect to do so. Meanwhile, Bush's rival, Vice President Al Gore, and his running mate, Joseph Lieberman, touted a "patients' bill of rights" that would set minimum standards of care. A key provision, Gore said, was to take decisions "away from the HMOs and insurance companies" and give them to "doctors and nurses."

The National Labor Relations Board ruled that certain temporary workers can join unions at the companies to which they are assigned. Analysts said the decision, which is considered a victory for unions, was important because companies have been hiring more temporary workers and farming out jobs to contractors to avoid dealing with unions. The ruling primarily will affect those on longer-term assignments, and only workers who are supervised by company employees are eligible.

After persistent complaints about the mistreatment of Asians who attempt to enter the country at Oregon's Portland International Airport, the Immigration and Naturalization Service announced it would take remedial steps and conduct a "comprehensive management review." Statistics show INS officials in Portland have refused foreigners entry into the country at unusually high rates. The most recent, publicized incident occurred in mid-August, when a Chinese businesswoman was jailed for two nights and strip-searched.

Some 200,000 homes in metropolitan Chicago will be tested for possible contamination by mercury, a local utility announced. Nicor Gas Co. began looking into potential problems in July when it discovered traces from a liquid mercury spill after a contractor replaced an old gas regulator. By last Monday, Nicor had inspected 255 homes and found higher-than-normal mercury levels in one-sixth of them.

For the first time, a computer has designed and made simple robots with minimal help from humans. In the project, whose goal was to create objects that could crawl across a table, the computer considered and selected effective designs. The results were reported in the journal Nature by Jordan Pollack of Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. and fellow researcher Hod Lipson.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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