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In a major policy shift, the Diocese of Brooklyn announced it will give prosecutors the names of priests accused of sexual abuse over the past 20 years. Bishop Thomas Daily said district attorneys will receive some names as early as today. The move came amid new charges against Catholic priests in Seattle, New Hampshire, and San Francisco. On New York's Long Island, meanwhile, a district attorney said he will convene a special grand jury to investigate allegations of sexual abuse involving priests, a move legal experts say would be a first.

The energy task force headed by Vice President Cheney did consult environmental groups, but only for one two-day period, under mounting criticism that the task force was ignoring environmentalists, documents show. Released in response to two lawsuits, the papers show that an Energy Department staffer was told to make a two-day sweep of environmental groups and recommend to superiors those views consistent with the administration's energy policy. The documents did not indicate that recommendations were submitted.

A long-debated election reform bill was expected to pass the Senate yesterday. The $3.4 billion bill, which seeks to rectify some of the balloting problems from the last presidential election, will need to be reconciled with a measure that already passed in the House. The Senate bill requires states to enact computerized statewide registration lists and accessibility provisions for the disabled. The House bill sets minimum standards but allows states to develop their own improvements.

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Chicago will close three elementary schools for poor performance, the first time such a drastic step has been taken in the city's seven years of school reform efforts. Students will be transferred when the schools close at the end of this school year. Two of the schools will reopen in 2003, officials said.

Two new federal agencies, dividing immigration enforcement and citizenship services, would replace the Immigration and Naturalization Service under a bill cleared for House consideration. The overwhelming endorsement of the bill, which passed the Judiciary Committee 32-2, signaled congressional discontent with the agency and with the Bush administration's plan to fix it from the inside.

President Bush's proposal to restore food stamps to noncitizens, included in a farm bill passed by the Senate in February, has hit opposition from House Republicans, who want to use the money to benefit farmers. Legal immigrants were cut off of food stamps during the 1996 welfare reform, and the proposal would restore benefits to some 363,000 people. A House-Senate conference committee set the issue aside after House GOP members, who want to restrict the number of qualifying immigrants and limit the length of benefits, balked.

Effects of El NiƱo could become apparent in the US by midsummer, government scientists said. Depending on the intensity of the developing climate phenomenon, effects could range from fewer Atlantic hurricanes and a drier summer in the Southwest to more Nor'easters next winter.

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