News In Brief

After the Immigration and Naturalization Service said Wednesday that six-year-old Elian Gonzalez must return to Cuba by Jan. 14, lawyers for the boy's US relatives said they are considering court action. They asked Attorney General Janet Reno to reverse the INS decision, but she said yesterday she agreed with it. About 300 people protested the ruling outside the relatives' house in Miami, and hundreds more demonstrated outside the INS building there. INS officials made their decision after interviewing Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, who they concluded has a close relationship with his son. Elian was rescued Nov. 25 off the Florida coast after surviving a boating accident that killed his mother and 11 other people fleeing the communist island.

With the pace of Israeli-Syrian peace talks sluggish, President Clinton planned to rejoin negotiations in Shepherdstown, W.Va. The US is pressing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa to come up with new ideas to move the talks forward. On Wednesday, the two sides discussed security arrangements and normalization of relations.

Labor Secretary Alexis Herman withdrew an advisory that held employers responsible for the health and safety of workers who fulfill their duties at home. She said the advisory by the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration was not intended as a statement of policy. But because of the controversy it aroused, an interagency task force may study home-office safety. Republicans in Congress called for an investigation of the Labor Department's decision to first issue and then retract the advisory.

As competition has increased in the electric-utility industry, service is becoming less reliable, an Energy Department task force concluded after studying disruptions across the US last summer. According to an interim report, the presence of more suppliers makes it more difficult to coordinate the flow of power, thus heightening the risk of temporary blackouts and brownouts. Cost-cutting, brought on by competition, also makes it hard to improve aging infrastructure in the face of rising electricity demands, the report said. The city of Seattle far overran its projected costs in serving as host for last year's World Trade Organization conference, racking up $9 million in expenses - $3 million more than had been anticipated. The extra costs were incurred to control - and clean up after - an estimated 45,000 demonstrators.

NBC announced it had agreed to find more writers, producers, and directors from minority groups for its TV shows. The network had been under pressure from the NAACP, which called its fall program lineup a "virtual whitewash." Similar agreements, addressing what's seen on the air by focusing on the people behind the cameras, also reportedly were in the works with three other networks: CBS, ABC, and Fox.

The Mars Polar Lander, which disappeared last month, may have crashed into a deep canyon on the Red Planet, unidentified Lockheed Martin scientists on the mission team suggested, according to a report in the Denver Post. The newspaper said scientists were surprised to find the canyon at the projected landing site.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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