News In Brief

As hope faded for the latest Mars probe, the US space agency turned to another troubled mission. The crew of the shuttle Discovery arrived in Florida for a rescue voyage to the Hubble Space Telescope. During four space walks, Discovery's astronauts are to replace four failed gyroscopes and perform other maintenance chores on the $3 billion instrument. They are expected to blast off this weekend.

Treasury officials, under fire for mismanaging billions of dollars in Indian trust funds, shredded 162 boxes of records a year ago and hid the fact for three months, a federal court in Washington disclosed. Judge Royce Lamberth, who is trying to rectify decades of negligence in handling trust funds derived from the sale of natural resources on Indian lands, postponed possible sanctions, but said he was "deeply disturbed." The Treasury Department said the boxes held forms "reflecting disbursements made by ... federal agencies from the beginning of the 20th century until approximately 1958."

Social Security trustees underestimate how quickly the cost of paying benefits will rise as life expectancy increases in the next century, a panel of experts said. The panel of economists, demographers, and other specialists from business and academia said the trustees' assumption of 81.5 years of average life expectancy in 2070 should be boosted to 85.2 years. If an immediate Social Security payroll-tax adjustment was used to fund additional benefits associated with the higher assumption, it would require a 0.51 percent increase, the panel said.

The Supreme Court reinstated a California law limiting the release of police records - names and addresses of arrested suspects and crime victims. On a 7-to-2 vote, the justices reversed rulings that had struck down the privacy law as an undue infringement on free-speech rights. The decision is a victory for the Los Angeles Police Department and a setback for the United Reporting Publishing Corp., which had sold lists of names and addresses of arrested people to lawyers, insurance companies, and others.

A former airline-contracting firm was convicted on nine of 23 criminal charges related to the May 11, 1996, ValuJet crash in the Florida Everglades.

SabreTech, which is no longer in business, was convicted of recklessly supplying the hazard-ous oxygen generators blamed for the cargo-hold fire that caused the crash that killed all 110 people aboard the aircraft. Two former employees were acquitted of conspiracy and falsifying paperwork. SabreTech attorney Ken Quinn said the guilty verdicts, which carry a possible fine of $4.5 million plus restitution to victims' families, will be appealed.

The police chief of Seattle announced his decision to step down at the end of March. Chief Norm Stamper was quoted in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as saying he decided last month to retire in January after six years on the job, but extended his timetable because he now wants to help sort out how the force lost control of protests that disrupted last week's World Trade Organization meeting. Seattle police were severely criticized for a crackdown that included the arrest of 450 protesters.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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