Puerto Ricans Offered Commutation

President Clinton offered to commute the sentences of 16 members of a Puerto Rican independence group if they sign agreements renouncing the use of violence. The group staged about 130 bomb attacks on political and military targets in the United States from 1974 to 1983.

One administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the prisoners were not involved in any deaths.

Eleven members of the group would be released immediately from prison if they agreed to Clinton's conditions; two others would have to serve additional prison time before release; and three would have the unpaid balance of their criminal fines canceled, according to a Justice Department announcement.

Clinton's action was in response to a campaign by human rights advocates who have argued that members of the group known as FALN--the Spanish initials for Armed Forces of National Liberation--were punished too harshly.

Airliner Insulation Replacement

The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered the replacement of thermal insulation in 699 U.S.-registered McDonnell Douglas aircraft within four years because the material, metalized Mylar, can spread fires.

FAA officials said eight months of testing had shown that insulation materials in some other airliners also do not pass flammability tests but are not as flammable as metalized Mylar.

The McDonnell Douglas MD-11 involved in the crash of a Swissair flight near Halifax, Nova Scotia, last year was insulated with metalized Mylar, and Canadian investigators said they believe the material helped sustain the fire in the ceiling above the cockpit.

Veterans Health Care Suit Rejected

A federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit that accused the government of breaking its promise of a lifetime of free health care to people who spend 20 years in the military.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rejected the lawsuit of a South Carolina veterans group, agreeing with a lower court that "neither the statutes nor the regulations authorized the military to promise retirees free lifetime medical care."

The 9,000-member Coalition of Retired Military Veterans said yesterday that it will appeal the ruling and file a second lawsuit accusing military recruiters of fraud. "We're not asking for anything except what we earned," said Jim Gunn, the group's chairman. "We just want what we were told we had when we signed up."

In siding with the Justice Department, the appeals court said military regulations never authorized recruiters to promise health care as an inducement to joining the military.