News In Brief

Scientists reported the first direct photo evidence of a planet circling a star outside Earth's solar system. Planets are normally too dim to be seen from Earth, even with the finest telescopes. But in this case, astronomer Greg Henry of Tennessee State University was able to photograph what was described as a gas giant half again as big as Jupiter passing in front of star HD 209458, producing an eclipse-like image.

Safety officials said the cockpit voice recorder recovered Saturday from EgyptAir Flight 990 - together with the data recorder that was already in hand - should help investigators unravel what caused the Boeing 767 to crash off Nantucket, Mass., Oct. 31, killing all 217 people aboard. Early data showed that the plane was put into a steep dive with both engines shut off and that it then climbed briefly before turning and plunging into the sea.

President Clinton signed into law a sweeping overhaul of laws regulating banks, giving them more ways to compete in evolving financial markets. Analysts said it would likely fuel a wave of mergers as firms try to build "financial supermarkets" offering a wide variety of services.

Clinton also signed legislation allowing District of Columbia residents to attend colleges in Virginia and Maryland at in-state tuition rates. The federal government will pay the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition at public colleges in Maryland and Virginia - including private colleges that have historically attracted black students - up to a maximum of $2,500 a year.

The president's lawyers sought to delay a lawsuit involving the Clintons' purchase of a home in New York until after he leaves office. They asked that a suit filed by the conservative group Judicial Watch be blocked until Jan. 20, 2001, because it would be too "intrusive and time-consuming." The motion says the Supreme Court, in rejecting the same argument in the Paula Jones case, had "drastically underestimated the burden" a lawsuit can place on a president. Alleging that its terms are an illegal gratuity from the lender, Judicial Watch wants to have the mortgage on the Clintons' house rescinded.

Medicare spending decreased in fiscal year 1999 for the first time in the history of the program, The New York Times reported. The 1 percent decline from 1998 to 1999 is significant because Medicare, the federal health-insurance plan for the elderly and disabled, had been growing 10 percent a year when Congress voted to curb its payments to doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes in 1997. The savings stem from many causes, including the congressional cuts and low inflation, the newspaper said.

The White House was considering a deal that would allow the US to pay nearly $1 billion in dues owed to the UN in exchange for accepting some Republican restrictions on the use of US aid by international groups that promote abortion, congressional sources said. The compromise would reportedly be similar to a House-passed measure that would allow US aid to go to such groups - as long as they use separate funds for their abortion activities.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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