News In Brief

The number of US children in poverty declined by 1.2 million, or 10 percent, between 1995 and 1998, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported. But the liberal research group also noted that the remaining poor children were significantly worse off. The average income of households with poor children in 1998 was $1,604 below the poverty line, down $133 from 1995. Many of the families that left the welfare system found that their new incomes failed to make up for lost benefits, researchers said.

During the second-longest spacewalk by US astronauts, John Grunsfeld and Steven Smith replaced broken gyroscopes on the Hubble Telescope. Their labors took eight hours and 15 minutes, two hours longer than planned and just 14 minutes shy of the record set in 1992. Two additional spacewalks were planned before the shuttle Discovery's scheduled return to Earth Monday.

The NCAA may use standardized test scores in determining eligibility of freshman athletes, a federal appeals court said. In reversing a lower-court ruling on a 2-to-1 vote, the Third US Circuit Court of Appeals said the governing body of college sports doesn't have to conform with Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act because it doesn't directly receive federal funding. The act forbids discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin. Black athletes had sued the NCAA for not allowing them to play, or denying them scholarships, because their test scores were low.

Federal officials urged calm and vigilance concerning possible terrorist threats. In a statement, the FBI said it had received "unsubstantiated information" that individuals may be planning to send bombs in small parcels to the US from Frankfurt, Germany. It urged Americans to notify local police about packages originating from Frankfurt or bearing Frankfurt postal markings if recipients aren't familiar with the senders.

Four boys age 14 and 15 have admitted plotting a Columbine-style attack at a Cleveland high school, prosecutors said. The shootings were averted when a student tipped off school officials that the teens planned a Nov. 29 shooting spree at South High. Two of the boys pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, the others to inducing panic. Prosecutors said there was no evidence the plan was racially motivated. Sentencing was set for Jan. 25.

A news organization filed a lawsuit against a committee of federal judges who refused to release financial-disclosure statements of some 1,600 fellow jurists., which wanted to post the statements on the Internet, was prevented from doing so by a ban imposed by the Committee on Financial Disclosure, an arm of the Judicial Conference of the United States, which sets federal court policy. The 15-member panel said it was trying to protect judges from unscrupulous sleuths.

New Jersey agreed to appoint a civilian monitor to make sure state police stop racial profiling and other discriminatory practices. The accord, reached under pressure from the US Justice Department, was still subject to judicial review.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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