News In Brief

State attorneys general were to meet with Microsoft officials today in an effort to reach an out-of-court settlement in their ongoing antitrust case. It was not clear what approach state officials would take. There were reports they might ask the company to give up control of its Windows operating system or to change its pricing policies. Negotiations were to take place one day before a judge rules on when the company's antitrust trial will resume. It began Oct. 19 and adjourned Feb. 26.

British and US intelligence officials believe Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov was paid off so Iraq could obtain strategic materials from Moscow to build nuclear weapons, The New Yorker magazine reported. Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh quoted unidentified high-level US intelligence sources as saying Primakov received $800,000 in a wire transfer in November 1997. The article said Primakov became a close friend of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein while writing for the Communist Party newspaper Pravda in the Middle East.

A Marine navigator whose jet cut a ski-gondola cable in Italy last year agreed to plead guilty to obstruction and conspiracy charges, a corps spokesman said. Capt. Joseph Schweitzer was accused of destroying a videotape that he shot before his radar-jamming EA-6B Prowler hit the cable during a low-level training flight in February 1998. All 20 people inside the gondola were killed.

Federal Reserve policymakers were expected to leave key interest rates unchanged during a meeting today in Washington. Analysts said there was no obvious sign of the higher inflation that would warrant a rate rise.

Computer experts hoped weekend warnings would help workers cope with a new virus that launches documents into cyberspace and clogs e-mail servers. Documents with the Melissa virus are sent as attachments to e-mails. Users can reportedly protect themselves by not opening the attachments. Information about the problem was available on the Web at www.cert.org/advisories.

The Supreme Court cleared the way for cities to decide what prayers are said to open council meetings. The court rejected without any comment an appeal by Tom Synder, who claimed his rights were violated when he was prevented from offering his proposed prayer at a city council meeting in Murray City, Utah. The justices let stand an appeals-court decision that the Constitution does not require legislative bodies to provide equal access to everyone to recite prayers. The appeals court said Snyder's proposed prayer was an effort to proselytize.

The high court refused to revive an affirmative-action program once used by the Dallas Fire Department. With two dissenting votes, the justices let stand a ruling that struck down the program as discriminatory against white men. At the same time, they refused to revive a reverse-discrimination challenge to a program that helps firms owned by disadvantaged people win contracts on federal highway projects. The justices turned away arguments that the program adopted by Congress had unlawfully discriminated against a Utah firm owned by a white man.

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