News In Brief

With the clock counting down to tonight's presidential caucuses in Iowa, the Democratic and Republican candidates were making their final pitches to the likely participants. Various polls showed Texas Gov. George W. Bush to be the Republican front-runner, although rival Sen. John McCain of Arizona has not competed in the state. Polls also showed Vice President Gore lengthening his lead over Democratic challenger Bill Bradley, but The Des Moines Register gave its endorsement to the latter, along with Bush.

In a visit to the Justice Department in Washington, the two grandmothers of Elian Gonzalez told Attorney General Janet Reno "how much they are suffering" over the six-year-old's continued stay in the US. Mariela Quintana and Raquel Rodriquez requested in a letter that he return with them to Cuba later this week. But Reno, who supports the decision by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to send Elian back to his Cuban father, had little to offer beyond explaining that the dispute must be played out in courts and, possibly, Congress. Meanwhile, anestimated 150,000 Cubans demanded Elian's return in another government-organized rally in Piar del Rio.

Federal prosecutors say suspected terrorism-financier Osama bin Laden used international companies and a relief organization as covers for a worldwide anti-US conspiracy, The New York Times reported. Bin Laden is charged along with 16 others in conspiring to attack Americans in two 1998 embassy bombings in Africa. In court papers, prosecutors said bin Laden's organization obtained blank passports from the Sudanese government and recruited people living in the US.

Congress is to reconvene today, but amid questions about how much will be achieved during an election year. The first major vote in the House likely will be on repealing the so-called marriage penalty, in which working married couples pay more taxes than comparable unmarried couples. This summer, Congress is expected to tackle President Clinton's recently concluded trade agreement with China, which would facilitate the latter's entry into the World Trade Organization.

A top Chinese Army general is due in Washington today for meetings with Defense Secretary Cohen and other US officials aimed at resuming military contacts between the two countries. Lt. Gen. Xiong Guangkai also plans to discuss American military sales to Taiwan and arms transfers by China to other countries. Relations were set back after NATO bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, last May.

Arguing that media coverage reduced the possibility of a fair trial in Seattle, attorneys for an Algerian national accused of smuggling high explosives into the US requested that the venue be shifted to San Francisco or Los Angeles, according to a published report. Ahmed Ressam was arrested by Customs officers last month as he tried to drive into the US.

Workers in the Midwest or in states hit hard by a farm crisis were likely to take second jobs, a study of 1998 labor patterns found. Minnesota led with 10.8 percent of workers collecting more than one paycheck; North Dakota was second with 10.6 percent. The national rate was 6.3 percent, the North Dakota State Data Center reported.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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