News In Brief

The US said it would send a limited number of troops to aid international peacekeeping in East Timor. National Security Adviser Samuel Berger told reporters in Auckland, New Zealand, that the US "focus" would not be on infantry forces, but on transportation and communications. He did not mention any numbers.

A group of Puerto Rican nationalists was welcomed home as heroes in San Juan after being freed from prison by President Clinton. The first five to return Saturday were relatively subdued as dozens of supporters cheered them at the airport. Under a conditional-clemency offer, they may not be active again in the independence movement or associate with other felons - a requirement that may prevent them from even speaking to one another. Nine of 11 former prisoners released Friday said they would return to Puerto Rico. Their release came after a symbolic 311-to-41 House vote that condemned Clinton's offer of clemency.

A teachers union in Denver agreed to a contract that would link pay to performance of students in individual classrooms. Participants in the two-year, pilot program will receive bonuses, rather than raises. However, if the concept is retained, teachers whose students do well will be rewarded with salary increases. Teachers' salaries would be reduced if their students didn't measure up. About 450 of the district's 4,300 teachers will take part in the test phase of the program, reportedly the first of its kind in the US.

The California legislature passed a number of gay-rights measures, including a bill designed to prevent discrimination against gay students and teachers. Another would create a domestic-partners registry so that state and local governments could extend health benefits to partners of gay employees. Gov. Gray Davis (D) plans to sign the domestic-registry legislation, but doesn't yet have a position on the other gay-rights measures, a spokeswoman said.

Accords that would significantly expand gambling on California reservations and allow them to have Nevada-style slot machines and card games were signed by Gov. Davis and Indian leaders. Meanwhile, California lawmakers approved a proposed amendment to the state constitution to help implement the compacts. For the deals to take effect, voters will have to approve the draft amendment in March.

US civil servants would receive a 4.8 percent pay raise under a compromise accord reached by House and Senate negotiators. The increase, which would allow the civil servants to receive the same raise military personnel are to receive next year, would be the civilian employees' biggest pay hike since 1981.

A federal court order effectively ended race-based student-assignment policies - including forced busing - in the North Carolina school district that had pioneered the desegregation practice. Charlotte-Mecklenburg school officials said they had not yet decided whether they would appeal. They had 30 days to do so.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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