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Nation in brief

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 18, 2000

Deal could end L.A. transit strike

LOS ANGELES -- In a deal brokered by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the union representing 4,300 striking transit workers reached a tentative agreement with county transit officials on Tuesday aimed at ending a four-week walkout and restoring bus and rail service to 450,000 commuters.

The agreement was reached after an all-night bargaining session, during which Jackson shuttled between negotiators for the United Transportation Union and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of Los Angeles County, union officials said.

Astronaut's slip adds a bit to trash in orbit

CAPE CANAVERAL -- Two spacewalking astronauts clamped power equipment onto the international space station on Tuesday and inadvertently added to the collection of junk whizzing around Earth.

A cap for a depressurization valve floated away moments after Bill McArthur emerged from space shuttle Discovery.

The aluminum cover, about the size of a gas cap on a car, bounced against the space station, then against the shuttle robot arm. Then it was gone.

"It was a nice billiard shot," McArthur radioed. "It's become the latest addition to tiny bodies orbiting the Earth."

Concern about altered corn stops flourmaking

OMAHA, Neb. -- ConAgra Foods, one of the nation's biggest foodmakers, announced Tuesday that it has stopped making corn flour at a Kansas mill because it may have received genetically modified corn that sparked a nationwide recall of some taco shell brands.

The mill, ConAgra's only corn flour plant, stopped processing corn on Oct. 11, ConAgra spokeswoman Karen Savinski said. ConAgra told its customers, a variety of food manufacturers, about the potential problem and asked them not to use the corn flour. Savinski declined to name the companies involved.

Focus on Family official quits over affair

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- A top official and radio announcer for Focus on the Family said he has resigned from the conservative Christian group because he had an extramarital affair.

Mike Trout abruptly quit last week. In an interview Monday with the Gazette, he admitted to an "inappropriate relationship with a woman other than his wife and had no choice but to resign from a ministry that stresses the sanctity of marriage."

Foundation honors Elian, to aid refugee children

MIAMI -- A non-profit foundation funded by USA Today founder Al Neuharth has awarded a $1-million prize to Elian Gonzalez and will use the money to help refugee children.

The $1-million will be used to fund the Free Spirit Youth Refugee Fund to aid needy refugee children from any country living in the United States, said Charles Overby, chairman and executive officer of the Freedom Forum.

Also Tuesday

HIGH-SPEED TRAINS: After a series of delays, Amtrak says the nation's first high-speed trains are finally ready to leave the station, linking Boston and Washington. Today, the national railway will announce a start date for its Acela Express service, which will hit 150 mph along the Northeast Corridor.

LAPTOP REQUIREMENT: Education leaders endorsed a plan Tuesday that would make Massachusetts the first state to require full-time public college students to own a laptop computer.

RAPE CHARGES: The mother of identical 13-year-old twins charged with beating and raping a 40-year-old woman defended her sons as "good kids" as they appeared at a court hearing in New York on the charges. The twins, who were not identified, were sent to a youth facility after their Family Court hearing Monday.

ONLINE HATE GUIDE: The Anti-Defamation League has devised an online guide to hate symbols, logos and tattoos to help parents and teachers identify warning signs in their communities. The guide appeared Tuesday on the ADL's Web site, front_hate_symbols.html.

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