News In Brief

The federal government ended the fiscal year with a budget surplus of $123 billion, recording its first back-to-back surpluses since the mid-1950s, the White House said. The surplus for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 followed a $69.2 billion surplus in 1998, the first time the government had finished in the black since 1969. President Clinton said last month the administration expected at least a $115 billion surplus - up from the $98.8 billion it had projected in June.

Democrats and Republicans pared back their demands in the tug-of-war over the budget. The White House listed four key priorities: hiring 100,000 teachers, recruiting 50,000 more police officers, paying back dues to the UN, and removal of 20 "anti-environment" riders from pending bills. GOP congressional leaders decided to reduce from 1.4 percent to 1 percent the savings they seek from across-the-board cuts - and, bowing to pressure, said congressional salaries would be included.

Clinton signed a bill making 911 the official emergency number nationwide - for both regular and cellular telephones. The measure also calls for development of technology that could track mobile callers. While 911 is widely used in the US as the emergency number for traditional phones, there have been as many as 20 different codes across the country for wireless services.

The Supreme Court agreed to consider whether electrocution amounts to cruel and unusual punishment when used to execute criminals. The court will consider a Florida case to make its first evaluation of the controversial procedure in more than a century - effectively shutting down the state's electric chair and granting reprieves to two men scheduled for execution this week. The decision came four months after the state's third botched electrocution of the decade four months ago.

US officials promised to use the full force of the law to protect illegal immigrants from workplace discrimination or harassment. Previously, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commis- sion (EEOC) had made citizenship status a factor in seeking redress from employers who discriminate. Undocumented workers are often paid below the minimum wage, discriminated against based on their ethnicity, and subject to having their paychecks withheld, human-rights groups said. EEOC officials said they would not inform other agencies about the illegal status of the aliens they defend.

Netscape founder Jim Clark gave Stanford University $150 million for a new center to help to break down barriers between biologists, chemists, and other academics in medical research. The gift is the most valuable to be received by Stanford since the donation by Leland Stanford that founded the university in 1891. Clark was a computer professor at Stanford before going into business.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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