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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert Kilborn and Lance Carden / August 25, 1999



The California Supreme Court struck down a measure legalizing video gambling machines and card games on Indian reservations. Proposition 5, approved by 63 percent of state voters in November, would have allowed 40 tribes with casinos to continue using video slot machines, which are estimated to generate 70 percent of revenues at the casinos. In a case that raised questions about the efficacy of such ballot initiatives, the justices said Proposition 5 violates a section of the state Constitution that forbids "casinos of the type currently operating in Nevada and New Jersey" - a phrase that had previously been undefined.

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California lawmakers approved a bill that would ban the sale of poorly made handguns. The state Senate voted 24 to 13 to make it a misdemeanor to make or sell an unsafe handgun in California after Jan. 1, 2001. Each handgun sold would have to have a safety device and would have to pass firing and drop-safety tests conducted by independent laboratories. Gov. Gray Davis (D) is expected to sign the measure, which would give California one of the toughest gun-safety laws in the country.

A new opinion poll indicated widespread support for public schools. For instance, respondents were asked in the annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup survey if they preferred "improving and strengthening" public schools or "providing vouchers for parents to use in selecting and paying for private and/or church-related schools." Seventy percent chose the public-school alternative; 28 percent favored the voucher system.

A Democratic defection promis-ed to give Republicans control of the Kentucky Senate. Sen. Bob Leeper (D) said he would switch to the GOP this week, becoming the second state senator to jump ship in the last six weeks. Leeper said he felt more comfortable with GOP philosophy and politics, the same reason given by Sen. Dan Seum, who made the change last month, leaving the parties deadlocked at 19 votes apiece.

FBI agents fired two pyrotechnic tear-gas grenades into the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas, the day it erupted in flames, a former FBI official said. Danny Coulson was quoted in The Dallas Morning News as saying the devices were fired hours before the blaze began April 19, 1993, and were not to blame for the fire that consumed the compound with the group's leader, David Koresh, and more than 80 of his followers inside. Government officials have maintained that the FBI used only nonflammable devices to get tear gas into the religious group's compound because of concerns that pyrotechnic weapons might spark a blaze in the wooden structure.

Some Holocaust survivors were withdrawing from a $1.2 billion settlement with Swiss banks, saying too much money was going to lawyers involved in their class-action lawsuit. Paul Frenkel of the Group for World War II Survivor Justice, which represents about 200 people, said the settlement with Credit Suisse and UBS AG would entitle survivors to as little as $500 and deprive them of the right to sue again.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society