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Florida gets bonus for boost in adoption

By Wire services
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 13, 2003

WASHINGTON - Twenty-five states and Puerto Rico will get $14.9-million in bonuses for boosting the number of adoptions from foster care last year, the government said Friday.

Florida is set to get the largest bonus at $3,520,000.

"Every time a waiting child finds a loving, permanent home, it helps not only the child, but the family and the nation," said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.

In the states getting bonuses, 3,703 more children were adopted in 2002 than in 2001, marking each state's highest adoption levels in five years, according to HHS, which administers the program under the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act.

Adoption dropped in some states. Nearly 51,000 children nationwide were adopted from foster care last year, about the same as 2001.

Each qualifying state will get a bonus of $4,000 per child adopted over its previous high during the five-year period. They also might get a bonus of $2,000 for each child with special needs who is adopted.

In July, the government launched the AdoptUSKids Web site, which profiles 3,700 children in foster care and offers information on how to adopt them. A national advertising campaign promoting adoption from foster care launches next spring.

100 members of House sign offshore drilling letter

PENSACOLA - A letter signed by 100 U.S. House members urged congressional leaders to keep an energy bill from including an oil and natural gas inventory they believe would lead to lifting a 20-year ban on drilling beneath most of the nation's coastal waters.

A Senate-House conference committee is trying to develop a compromise from versions of the bill passed by each chamber. Neither bill included the inventory, yet drilling foes remain wary.

Inventory supporters, including the Department of Interior, say it is needed to learn how much oil and gas the country has by using the most modern technology. They denied it would lead to opening off-limit waters to energy development.

"Drilling proponents are trying every trick in the book to chip away at the laws protecting America's shores," said Rep. Jim Davis D-Tampa.

Also . . .

2000 ELECTION CASE DISMISSED: Election officials have rejected a complaint accusing President Bush and former Vice President Al Gore and their parties of illegally using millions of dollars in "soft money" to finance campaign ads in the 2000 presidential election.

BUSH'S APPROVAL DROPS: President Bush's job approval rating has dropped to 52 percent, close to the lowest level of his presidency, says a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll released Friday. Before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Bush's standing was at 51 percent. The commander in chief's handling of the war on terror then sent his numbers skyrocketing to 90 percent in some polls.

HIJACKING CASE: The U.S. government is trying to execute a hijacker for the first time, seeking the death penalty for the leader of a group of Palestinian terrorists who took over a Pan Am jet in Pakistan in 1986 and killed 22 people, including two Americans. Zayd Hassan Abd Al-Latif Masud Al Safarini won the first round in the legal battle, convincing U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan the death penalty does not apply in his case. Prosecutors have asked Sullivan to reconsider. A hearing is expected this fall.

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