News In Brief

In a massive crime bust, federal authorities charged 120 people with securities fraud, exposing heavy mob influence on Wall Street. Charges of racketeering, securities fraud, solicitation of murder, money laundering, and extortion were brought against members of the La Cosa Nostra crime family and a host of securities professionals. The scheme, unearthed by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the US Attorney's office, bilked investors of at least $50 million.

The House overwhelmingly approved legislation making online signatures legally binding. Similar measures were approved last year, but new provisions were added to protect consumers from fraud and abuse. The bill would allow consumers to buy a car or take out a mortgage with a few mouse clicks. Sensitive documents such as wills are exempted from the legislation, which is expected to clear the Senate and be signed by President Clinton. Analysts say the bill could save businesses hundreds of millions of dollars in mail and paper costs.

On a strict party-line vote, the House also passed an annual spending bill for sharply contested education, health, and labor programs. Although the bill boosts spending in many areas, Republicans cut several Clinton proposals, setting the stage for an election-year veto showdown. Clinton also threatened vetoes on House passage of another spending bill and cuts in government subsidies for fuel efficiency research.

The highest-ranking US military officer yet suspected of espionage was arrested in Florida, accused of passing secret documents to the Soviet KGB. Retired Army Reserve Col. George Trofimoff was charged in a federal indictment with selling information between 1969 and 1994 that revealed US knowledge of Soviet military capabilities. Two defense officials said they believed Trofimoff's spying did not constitute a high security risk.

Latino students must narrow achievement gaps in education, a White House strategy session was expected to urge. In a meeting with Latino leaders, educators, and school officials, the White House is set to unveil a set of goals to improve student performance. Key among them is a commitment to ensure all Latino high school graduates are proficient in English. Other goals call for increased participation in preschool programs, improved test scores, and higher graduation rates. Officials hope to conceive plans for achieving the goals by 2010.

A federal appeals court dropped manslaughter charges against an FBI agent who fatally shot the wife of white separatist Randy Weaver during the 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. The panel dismissed the charges against Lon Horiuchi, ruling that the sharpshooter was acting in his official duty. FBI director Louis Freeh praised the decision.

Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives asked the full 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a decision that enables the 6-year-old to return to Cuba with his father. An earlier ruling by three of the court's 12 judges denied Elian the right to an asylum hearing.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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