News In Brief

In a victory for pro-choice advocates, the Food and Drug Administration approved the abortion pill RU-486, which can cause an early end to pregnancies. The FDA mandated that prospective pill-takers must be given information guides and must make doctor visits. It also said only physicians with certain medical qualifications can dispense the pill. Antiabortion organizations, which battled to keep RU-486 out of the US since the drug debuted in France in 1988, pledged to continue their fight.

A federal court dismissed half of the government's four claims in its multibillion-dollar lawsuit against the tobacco industry. In Washington, District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled the Medical Care Recovery Act or a law involving secondary payor insurance can't be used to recover Medicare expenses related to ill smokers. But the judge did rule that the government could proceed with the other claims under federal racketeering laws.

With the campaign season's first presidential debate due on Tuesday, both Al Gore and George W. Bush emphasized their views on government spending. The vice president said he'd pay $2 of projected surpluses toward debt reduction for every $1 he would devote to tax cuts or government programs. Investments in healthcare, education, a clean environment, and a secure retirement are top priorities, Gore said. The Bush camp attacked that approach, saying Gore's proposals add up to bigger government and jeopardized the new era of budget surpluses.

A compromise that Republican congressional leaders struck on easing US restrictions against Cuba could go to a House vote Monday, two GOP sources said. Legislation on food and medicine sales to the communist country has been in the works for months, but lawmakers from farm states and agricultural supporters had objected to provisions that barred US financing outright. Under the compromise, US institutions could help arrange third-country banking, a Republican official said. The sanctions against Cuba were imposed in 1963.

Lawmakers also agreed to delay implementation of new federal rules on how long truckers may stay behind the wheel. Highway safety advocates said the new rules - which essentially require longer breaks - didn't go far enough, but the trucking industry attacked them as counterproductive. The delay, which will last at least a year, allows the Transportation Department to continue gathering data on how drivers' hours can be revised best.

Finger-pointing was in full force after negotiations to end a transit strike in Los Angeles collapsed. Mayor Richard Riordan blamed the union that represents bus and rail operators employed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and urged strikers to return to work during talks. No new bargaining is scheduled, however. The workers, meanwhile, alleged the mayor had a hidden agenda of breaking up the MTA to give control to smaller, zoned agencies.

Negotiations between striking actors and the advertising industry broke down, and no further talks were planned, the Screen Actors Guild said. The collapse followed 10 straight days of meetings over residual payments that actors earn for TV commercials. Each side rejected the other's proposals. Also turned down: calls by federal mediators for a 90-day "cooling off" period, the guild said.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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