News In Brief

Secretary of State Powell was ordered to the Middle East next week to try to preserve the shaky Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire, arranged two weeks ago by CIA Director George Tenet but threatened by continuing violence on both sides. President Bush said the trip is part of "an all-out effort to bring peace" to the region. He added that a lasting truce must come before other peacemaking measures.

The trade deficit narrowed to $32.2 billion in April, a decline of 2.7 percent, the Commerce Department reported. Among factors contributing to the shrinkage: American purchases of foreign-made TVs and other goods decreased, and the average price for imported crude oil, which dipped to its lowest level since November 1999.

The Navy called off a bombing exercise over Vieques island after protesters were spotted just outside the range. The close call was the latest incident in an ongoing duel between the Navy and activists, who say they have delayed maneuvers several times. The Navy's statement that the planes were called back and "nobody got hurt" was its strongest admission yet that the tactics are derailing its exercises on Vieques.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was holding hearings - and the Justice Department planned its own inquiry - into ongoing problems with the FBI. Both moves came amid reports that an agent in Las Vegas had sold classified files to organized crime figures and others under investigation. Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D) said, "Unfortunately, the image of the FBI in the minds of too many Americans is that this agency has become unmanageable, unaccountable, and unreliable."

Several Hollywood studios admitted paying actors or other employees to endorse their films in "man-in-the-street" TV commercials. The news follows an earlier admission by Sony Pictures Entertainment that it created a fake critic to promote its films and placed workers in testimonial ads.

Grizzly bears may not be reintroduced to the Rocky Mountain West after all, the Interior Department indicated. Secretary Gale Norton proposed setting aside a Clinton-era plan to bring the bears back to Idaho and Montana wilderness, saying she will issue a final decision after a 60-day comment period. The reintroduction plan has drawn criticism from local officials and ranchers, while environmentalists have seen it as a test of Norton's commitment to protecting endangered species.

Police in Houston arrested a woman on suspicion of murdering her five children. When officers arrived at her house, in response to a call she herself had placed, Andrea Yates reportedly led them to the bodies of the children, each of whom had been drowned.

Opponents of genetic engineering were organizing protests against a biotechnology convention that opens tomorrow in San Diego. As scientists, researchers, and investors gathered to discuss human genetics, organizers were planning mass demonstrations to denounce the "corporate colonization of life itself."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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