News In Brief

Cuban-American leaders halted protests against six-year-old Elian Gonzalez returning to the communist island after a congressional committee subpoenaed him to testify Feb. 10. Supporters of the boy's US relatives say the subpoena was necessary because the Immigration and Naturalization Service did not fully investigate the case. The INS ordered Elian, who was rescued off the Florida coast Nov. 25, to return to his father's custody by Friday. Sen. Bob Smith (R) of New Hampshire, who met with Elian in Miami, said the boy wants to stay in Miami. His Florida relatives have asked a state court to award them temporary custody.

After a day off for the Jewish sabbath, Israeli-Syrian peace talks in Shepherdstown, W. Va., were expected to be turned over to lower-ranking negotiators after Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa return to their respective capitals. The talks reportedly moved forward after President Clinton urged the two sides to negotiate simultaneously on the Golan Heights and Israeli security concerns.

Six thousand people converged on the South Carolina Capitol in Columbia, protesting calls by the NAACP to lower a Confederate battle flag flying there . The legislature is set to convene tomorrow to consider several measures to bring down the controversial banner.

The Clinton administration, under its agreement with Congress to cut spending by 0.38 percent this fiscal year, said it will lop off more than $2.3 billion in budgeted funds. The cuts affect programs "earmarked" by members of Congress, all Cabinet departments, salaries and expenses, and a variety of other federal programs.

Republican presidential contender John McCain of Arizona was under new scrutiny for writing to federal regulators on behalf of large donors in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. McCain, one of two presidential candidates pushing campaign-finance reform, said he was simply trying to protect consumers. His aides released documents showing he also intervened on behalf of companies not donating to his campaign.

The Clinton administration delayed opening all states to use by Mexican trucks and buses, citing shortcomings in meeting US safety standards. Access was to be granted in 1995 under the North American Free Trade Agreement, but it has been pushed back twice. Mexico has protested the delays, and the White House said preparations were under way to convene an arbitration panel to try to resolve the dispute.

Florida lawmakers voted to limit death-row inmates in most cases to two appeals over a maximum of five years. Legislators also switched the state's primary method of execution from electrocution to lethal ejection. Death-row inmates, who under current legislation have an average of 14 years before their sentences are carried out, will still have the option of choosing electrocution.

A federal court in Texas rejected claims that the state's high-school graduation test discriminates against minorities. Although a significant percentage of minorities have failed the test, District Judge Edward Prado ruled there is no proof that flaws in it are responsible.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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