News In Brief

the federal trade commission said new Internet privacy laws aren't needed to protect consumers because companies are voluntarily developing their own rules for handling sensitive data. In a report to a House Commerce subcommittee, the FTC said efforts to protect privacy aren't yet widespread, but are growing. The report, endorsed by three of four FTC commissioners, was reportedly influenced by a recent industry-funded study showing dramatic improvement since last year in the number of Internet firms warning consumers when data about them is being collected.

Debate over rival Democratic and Republican proposals for a "patients' bill of rights" began in the Senate. Democrats want uniform US standards to regulate a health-care industry increasingly dominated by managed-care plans. Republicans prefer to leave regulation generally up to the states. Most business and health-care groups favor the GOP bill or none at all; the American Medical Association and many patient-advocacy groups back the Democratic measure.

The head of the NAACP urged blacks and other minorities not to watch network TV shows that do not portray African-Americans in leading roles. Calling it "a whitewash in programming," Kweisi Mfume (above) said there were no leading or starring roles for minority actors in any of 26 ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox prime-time shows scheduled for the fall.

The California Assembly approved tough new restrictions on assault weapons. A 1989 state law bans models of semiautomatic firearms, but doesn't cover "copycat" versions with slightly altered designs and names. The new measure, banning weapons based on characteristics and firepower, would also prohibit production and sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines, require owners to convert existing magazines to hold a maximum of 10 rounds, and require background checks of owners. Gov. Gray Davis (D) has vowed to sign the bill.

A federal appeals court extended the rights of women in college athletics. Under interpretations of Title IX, a law prohibiting gender discrimination in college sports, football and other single-sex contact sports have been exempt from the statute. But in a case filed by a female kicker who was dropped from the Duke University football team in 1996, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled the exemption doesn't apply if women are invited to try out for teams.

Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire confirmed reports that he is leaving the Republican Party. Smith said he still intends to run for president, and he confirmed that he's been speaking with other political groups.

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Toyota's US subsidiary, accusing the company of putting faulty smog-control computers on 2.2 million 1996-1998 vehicles. The civil suit seeks repair for the devices and up to $58.5 billion in fines for the firm. Toyota, the first automaker refusing to settle a Clean Air Act case, rejected a settlement last week that might have cost $100 million. Company officials say regulators reinterpreted the rules after their equipment had been approved.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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