After a federal appeals court in Atlanta ruled that Elian Gonzalez must stay in the country during legal proceedings initiated by his Miami relatives, lawyers for the great-uncle said he offered to take the boy anywhere in the US to meet his Cuban father. But the attorney for Juan Miguel Gonzalez said his client would agree to a meeting only if they gave assurances he would have immediate custody of his son. Meanwhile, many people in Miami's Little Havana section hailed the ruling as a victory, and Attorney General Janet Reno considered her next move. She said the ruling didn't preclude returning Elian to his father.
On the anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings, thousands of people were expected to gather for a candlelight vigil in Littleton, Colo. Classes at some schools nationwide were canceled because of threats of violence tied to the anniversary. Twelve students and one teacher were killed in last year's massacre, the worst school shooting in US history. Meanwhile, at least nine new lawsuits were filed accusing the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department of mishandling the case. Deputies are accused of ignoring warnings; one suit contends a victim died from an officer's bullet.
Three-fourths of Americans, including most gun owners, favor requiring that guns be sold with trigger locks, an Associated Press poll found. People had mixed feelings about whether tougher gun laws or stricter enforcement was the most effective way to cut violence. Forty-three percent favored the latter idea, while 33 percent chose the first. A fifth of those polled said neither option was better.
The International Monetary Fund approved a $304 million loan for Ecuador, paving the way for a $2 billion international rescue package for the troubled South American country. The money will help Ecuador pay for costly plans to introduce the US dollar and reform its fragile banking system, provided the government meets economic targets agreed upon with the IMF, officials said.
Defense Secretary William Cohen rejected a plan to recalculate the income of some of the country's lowest-paid soldiers, which would have pushed many of them off food stamps. The plan was aimed at correcting a perceived inequity in calculating pay for soldiers living off base and those housed on base. The Pentagon says about 6,300 people in the military received food stamps in 1998, down from 12,000 in 1995.
It will cost between $168 billion and $212 billion to clean up environmental damage from the US nuclear-weapons program through 2070, the Energy Department reported. That's up to 44 percent more than the department estimated two years ago. Seventeen of the 113 affected sites will take as much as a decade longer to clean up, while the department hopes to finish work at five sites more quickly than earlier forecast.
Even with falling crime rates, the number of Americans behind bars likely will top 2 million by the end of next year, Justice Department officials projected. The increase would mean the US may match or even surpass Russia as the country with the highest rate of incarceration - calculated to be about 1 of every 147 US residents at the middle of last year. Analysts attributed the rise to such factors as less generous paroles and more mandatory minimum sentences.
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