News In Brief

A meeting between US immigration authorities and attorneys for the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez ended with the relatives apparently refusing to sign an agreement to surrender the boy if they lose their court fight to keep him out of Cuba. The Immigration and Naturalization Service then said that Elian's temporary permission to stay in the US under the care of his great-uncle would end at 9 a.m. tomorrow. But the relatives did agree to an expedited appeals process to decide Elian's future; the US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has scheduled oral arguments in the case for the week of May 8.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, in general, police may not search someone solely based on an anonymous tip that he or she is carrying a gun. Such a search violates a person's Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable police searches and seizures, the justices said. Their decision upholds a Florida Supreme Court ruling that had thrown out the conviction of a juvenile who had been searched and then arrested under such circumstances.

A jury in San Francisco Superior Court ordered Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds to pay $20 million to Leslie Whiteley, who smoked cigarettes for 26 years and is now seriously ill, and her husband. It is believed to be the first case the tobacco industry has lost to someone who began smoking after 1969, when tobacco companies began putting government-required health warnings on cigarette packs. Earlier, the same jury awarded the couple $1.7 million in compensatory damages after finding the companies deceived the public about the dangers of smoking. Spokesmen for both companies said they expect the verdict to be overturned.

A federal court ruled that the chairmanship of the Reform Party belongs to Pat Choate, Ross Perot's 1996 presidential running mate. Judge Norman Moon's decision, issued in Lynchburg, Va., settles a power struggle within the party that erupted into brawling at a meeting of organization leaders last month. Following the ruling, Choate was to announce plans to move the party's headquarters to Washington and raise $1 million by the time of the August convention.

Propelled by a strong economy and more women of childbearing age, US births rose 2 percent in 1998, the first increase since 1990, the National Center for Health Statistics reported. It said there were 3.94 million births in 1998, or about 14.6 for every 1,000 females. Almost one-third of the babies were born to unmarried women - the highest number reported since the government started collecting birth data in the early 1900s. But teen birthrates were down 2 percent to 51.1 per 1,000 females - an 18 percent drop from 1991.

A record number of working-poor families - at least 5.4 million - were paying more than half their income for housing or were living in substandard conditions in 1997 (the most recent data available), the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported. HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo said the strong economy has driven prices of dwellings beyond the reach of many poor people. Congress is considering a bill that includes $690 million for 120,000 new rental assistance vouchers to be distributed in cities nationwide.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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