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Surgeon General Antonia C. Novello last week criticized the sale and marketing of Cisco, a fruit-flavored, fortified wine becoming increasingly popular among high-school students.

Dr. Novello said the New York-based Canandaigua Wine Company packages Cisco to look, smell, and taste like popular low-alcohol wine coolers.

But, she said, one 375-milliliter bottle contains the equivalent of five shots of 80-proof vodka.

She alleged that a 100-pound person could die of acute alcohol poisoning one hour after consuming two bottles of the drink.

Calling 40-proof Cisco "the ultimate wine fooler" and a "binge drink in one bottle," the Surgeon General called on Canandaigua to repackage Cisco in bottles that do not resemble wine coolers.

Since September, the company has labelled the product as "not a wine cooler," enlarged the print identifying the alcohol content as 20 percent, instructed stores not to place the product next to wine coolers, and removed in-store advertising that reads, "Cisco takes you by surprise," said Marvin Sands, the firm's chairman.

"The real issue is underage drinking and teenage alcohol abuse," he said. "Singling out one product is not an effective way of accomplishing the goals" of eradicating the problem.

A federal judge has lifted a temporary restraining order that prevented the Education Department from enforcing new "ability-to-benefit" test requirements for student-aid applicants.

U.S. District Judge George H. Revercomb canceled the order after the department added six examinations to the list of those that it had previously approved for gauging the ability of student-aid applicants who have not graduated from high school to benefit from postsecondary study.

The new tests included two produced by E.F. Wonderlic Personnel Test Inc., the firm that sued the department.

Additional tests will be accepted for review through March 31, 1991.

A separate restraining order against the new rule that was issued by a federal judge in California remains in effect.

A hearing in that case was scheduled for Jan. 14.

The House has repealed a provision of last year's budget agreement that called for the Office of Management and Budget to determine the cost of tax cuts and entitlement-spending increases.

By a vote of 242 to 160 on Jan. 3, the Democratic-controlled House restored to the Congressional Budget Office the authority to determine such cost estimates.

Estimates by the cbo and the omb often differ widely. Such figures are critical because, according to the budget agreement, tax cuts or new spending on entitlements are to be offset by corresponding spending cuts or tax increases.

If those measures cannot be taken, automatic spending cuts take place in entitlement programs.

President Bush has vowed to veto the bill, which includes a number of other rule changes.

The Education Department is not adequately monitoring its program for homeless children, the General Accounting Office has concluded.

The gao study, which was completed late last year, found that while the department and three other federal agencies have eased barriers that some claimed hindered efforts to help the homeless under the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Act of 1987, they have not adequately monitored or evaluated their programs.

In general, said the report, the federal agencies "do not know how effective their McKinney Act programs are in assisting the homeless."

The gao also has concluded that federal drug-education programs have not been adequately evaluated for their effectiveness.

In a report released late last year, the agency reviewed the implementation of the federal drug-education law of 1986 in six urban school districts.

The districts spent their funds on a variety of approaches, including counseling, teacher training, and curricula, the report said. Yet, it noted, little is known about which of these approaches work best.

Nonetheless, schools generally were pleased with the program, the report found.

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