News In Brief

America Online, the largest Internet company in the US, said it will buy Time Warner Inc., the world's largest media enterprise. The acquisition, which reports estimated to cost from $166 billion to $190 billion, would be history's biggest corporate merger. Subject to regulatory approvals and votes by the companies' shareholders, the transaction is expected to close by the end of the year. AOL Time Warner would bring together such entities as CNN, HBO, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, CompuServe, and Netscape.

Committees formed to discuss the key issues to an Israeli-Syrian peace deal - borders, security arrangements, normalization of relations, and rights to water - began meeting in Shepherdstown, W.Va., as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa prepared to fly back to the Middle East. But as the two leaders return home, the State Department acknowledged that significant gaps remain between the sides.

Spending on health care in the US rose 5.6 percent in 1998, according to an annual report by the Health Care Financing Administration. The increase - both by government and in the private sector - was the biggest since an 8.7 percent jump in 1993. Expenditures amounted to an average $4,094 per person, for a total of $1.1 trillion. Spending on prescription drugs grew more than any other category, climbing by 15.4 percent to $90.6 billion, the report said.

The Postal Service is expected to seek an increase in the price of stamps when its board of governors meets today, various mass-mailers said. The agency also must receive a go-ahead from the independent Postal Rate Commission. It is pledged not to raise rates this year but is believed likely to want a one- or two-cent hike by 2001. Two competitors, Federal Express and United Parcel Service, cited rising expenses in announcing rate hikes that are to take effect next month.

A petition from Elian Gonzalez's US relatives to gain temporary custody of the boy may be ruled on early this week, a Miami-Dade County family court said. The Immigration and Naturalization Service drew heavy criticism for ruling last week that custody belongs to Elian's father in Cuba and that the boy should return there by Friday. Among political leaders who have spoken on the matter Vice President Gore, who's campaigning for president, and Rep. Dan Burton (R) of Indiana, who issued Elian a congressional subpoena to testify next month, have voiced support for the courts deciding the boy's status.

All branches of the armed services face sizable pressures in recruiting and retaining qualified personnel, the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a two-year study. The report, based on responses by thousands of military personnel, recommended that the public be better educated about how demands of the military differ from civilian life.

For every 1,000 US residents 65 or older, there were an average of 5.3 violent crimes each year between 1992 and 1997, a new Justice Department study reported. That was less than one-tenth the rate for younger Americans, the report said. The difference, it noted, may be because older people tend to stay home at night more often than their younger counterparts.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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