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News Briefs

Public Education Gets Mixed Report Card

The Washington Post

American public school students are dropping out less and scoring higher on math and science tests than a decade ago, but educators are still not moving quickly enough to close a stubborn proficiency gap between white and Hispanic students, according to a report issued by the Department of Education.

The annual "Condition of Education" report, released this week by the department's National Center for Education Statistics, also said that students are taking more difficult courses than they were before the landmark report "A Nation at Risk" was issued in 1983, and that more high school graduates head for college right after high school.

"Areas on which schools, communities and states have focused attention are now showing results of greater student achievement," Education Secretary Richard W. Riley said in an interview.

While he acknowledged that progress was "not as fast as we'd like it" and that some areas of the American educational system remain "in crisis," Riley said the country was "on the right path, and this is no time to retreat from our efforts to keep education a national priority."

Riley criticized the $3.8 billion in education budget cuts passed by the House, especially when the number of students enrolled - in kindergarten through grade 12 - will reach a record high of more than 51 million in 1997, according to Education Department projections. The Senate has yet to take up the budget cuts.

FBI's Freeh Says Agency Capable Of Policing Itself

Los Angeles Times

FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, saying he does not doubt the FBI's ability to police itself, Wednesday rejected any suggestion that bureau officials' conduct be examined by a review process outside the U.S. Justice Department, as has been done at some big city police departments.

At the same time, Freeh said, he could not think of allegations "more serious" than those against the five senior FBI officials he recently suspended because of accusations that they did not accurately disclose what took place in a 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. A white separatist's wife was killed during the siege by an FBI sniper in what Freeh has described as a "tragic accident."

If the allegations prove to be true, Freeh said, "I can't think of anything more serious, and I would be very concerned about undermining the public confidence in the FBI."

Freeh, in a telephone interview, voiced no alarm at a new poll showing that public confidence in the FBI had plummeted in the last three months, possibly tied to congressional hearings on the FBI's 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, in which more than 80 people died.

Investigators Focus on Engine Trouble in Commuter Plane Crash

The Washington Post

Federal investigators focused Tuesday on whether a problem with the left engine could have caused the crash Monday of an Atlantic Southeast Airlines commuter plane in Georgia that killed five people.

Several of the 24 surviving passengers on the flight from Atlanta to Gulfport, Miss., reported hearing an explosion on the left side of the Brazilian-made Embraer 120 twin-engine turboprop and seeing the left propeller torn apart. The pilot, who died in the crash, told passengers and air traffic controllers the plane was having engine trouble.

At a briefing Tuesday night in Georgia, John Hammerschmidt of the National Transportation Safety Board said investigators found nothing mechanically wrong with the left engine, although it had been ripped from its mount.

A turboprop uses a jet engine to turn a propeller. Part of the propeller blade was found missing from the left propeller, though Hammerschmidt said the blade could have snapped before or after the crash. A 16-inch piece of the shattered propeller blade was retrieved in the wreckage and will be analyzed.

The flight data and cockpit voice recorders - the "black boxes" - were recovered. Hammerschmidt said the data recorder indicated the left engine failed at 18,000 feet.

Rwanda's Suffering Refugees Forced back Home

Los Angeles Times
GOMA, Zaire

At the point of a gun, Rwanda's suffering refugees are being sent home.

This week, as of Wednesday, 13,000 or so men, women and children have been rounded up and trucked to the border here and at two other locations in eastern Zaire. They have been uprooted from entrenched camps, plucked off streets, corralled at watering stations, marched from jails, packed along, then ordered to walk the last eerie 100 feet across no-man's-land, back to the country they left in panic 14 months ago.

Back to the unknown.

This is, some say, exactly what was needed. But not this way. It's a shame. But it might work. It's brutal. But it could forestall even greater tragedy ahead. Or, it may be just another kind of misery in one of the world's most infernal reaches.

Still, a few of those crossing from Goma Wednesday bore smiles. Most were stoic, holding the hands of their children and following orders. One man resisted and was dragged screaming.

Another 100,000 refugees from Rwanda and neighboring Burundi have refused to leave Zaire, and, instead fled for shelter in more distant refugee camps or into the forbidding rain forests of Central Africa. Perhaps 1 million others spent Wednesday night holding tight and wondering what fate held for them.