News In Brief

The US space agency said it will undertake a complete review of its Mars program, which has lost three spacecraft since 1993 - two of them in back-to-back failures over the past three months. Critics say the agency is trying to do too much with too little money, using smaller, less-expensive probes and launching them more often than in the past.

President Clinton took steps to prevent medical mistakes, directing an interagency task force to report back in 60 days on ways to cope with the problem. In addition, more than 300 private health plans that sell insurance to federal employees were told to take patient-safety initiatives. Federal agencies administering health plans for veterans, the military, and others are to evaluate and, if feasible, initiate steps to reduce medical mistakes. Last week, an Institute of Medicine report quoted estimates that such mistakes kill between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans annually.

The American Medical Association said it's OK for doctors to alert state officials when their patients have medical conditions that could make them unsafe drivers. The policy change was adopted by a majority of nearly 500 AMA delegates meeting this week in San Diego. Critics said it would cause some people to defer treatment and fundamentally change the doctor-patient relationship.

Most people living in the streets or in public shelters can escape homelessness if they get help, a report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development concluded. The study found that 60 percent of the homeless who live alone and 76 percent of those living in families were able to leave shelters for permanent housing after receiving aid with housing, health care, substance abuse, education, and/or job training. The report is based on interviews with 4,207 people, most of them homeless.

The White House is helping prepare a class-action suit against gunmakers, alleging that guns and how they're marketed contribute to violence in public-housing projects, officials said. The actual litigation is to be filed by some of the nation's 3,100 local housing authorities, although it is hoped that just the threat of such suits will help convince the industry to settle out of court.

The State Department said it recognizes a father's right to assert his claim for the return of his six-year-old son to Cuba. A spokesman said US officials would contact Juan Miguel Gonzalez and explain his rights in the case of his son, Elian. The statement followed strident demands by Cuba for the return of the boy, brought to shore in Florida by the Coast Guard Nov. 25 after his mother and other would-be refugees drowned in a failed attempt to reach the US by boat.

If you don't have New Year's Eve plans, you have a plenty of company, according to a new survey.

Millennium or no millennium, in the ABC News poll, 61 percent of respondents said they expect to spend the night at home, 59 percent said they hadn't decided what they'll do, 16 percent said they'll likely be at the home of a friend or relative. Only 18 percent said they were planning to ring in the New Year in a public place.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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