News In Brief

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will represent Washington tomorrow at the funeral of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, the White House announced. President Clinton, upon receiving news of his death Saturday, described him as an "open and straightforward" leader who "made a strategic choice for peace." Although Clinton said it was too early to assess the impact on regional peace talks, he indicated he expects to continue working with Syria's leaders toward a comprehensive settlement. The Clinton administration has made Mideast peace its top foreign-policy priority for the remainder of his term. Talks between Israel and Syria broke down earlier this year.

In his weekly radio address, Clinton announced measures encouraging states to pay unemployment benefits to workers who take unpaid leave to care for a newborn child or an ill relative. Clinton said he sought the new plan because many employees can't afford to take time off without pay, as stipulated under the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act. While the initiative is voluntary, 15 states already are considering legislation to amend unemployment compensation systems. Some Republican lawmakers, however, said the measures would raid unemployment insurance trust funds and shred the safety net for people out of work.

Two newspaper investigations challenged the legitimacy of dozens of criminal executions in Texas under the tenure of Gov. George W. Bush, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate. In separate reports, Sunday editions of the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times cited questionable testimony, unreliable evidence, and bad lawyering in raising questions about Texas' death-penalty record. The state, meanwhile, admitted late last week that race may have been a factor in committing nine men to death row. But Bush has expressed confidence in the system.

Reflecting the increased power of conservative members, Southern Baptists are set to formally preclude women from becoming pastors, The Washington Post reported. Delegates to a convention in Orlando, Fla., this week are expected to codify language adopted in 1984 after the preaching of the Rev. Kelly Sisson in New Orleans drew attention, the paper said. It noted that the 15.8-million-member denomination currently has about 40 female preachers.

Devils defenseman Scott Stevens holds hockey's Stanley Cup after New Jersey defeated the Dallas Stars 4 games to 2. The final matchup Saturday was decided in double overtime, 2-1. Stevens also was named the playoffs' most valuable player.

The Justice Department reported no evidence of a conspiracy in the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a finding King's son disputes. Attorney General Janet Reno ordered the investigation in 1998 at the urging of King's family, who expressed doubt about convicted killer James Earl Ray's guilt. In December, a Memphis, Tenn., civil jury concluded that "others, including government agencies," plotted to kill King.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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