News In Brief

By , Judy Nichols, and Stephanie Cook

With settlement talks having ended in failure, the federal judge overseeing Microsoft's antitrust trial was to issue a verdict after financial markets closed Monday, company officials said. US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson was expected to rule against the software giant, based on his findings last year that it stifled innovation and hurt consumers. If Jackson finds that Microsoft violated the law, he will then order remedies, which could involve further hearings and arguments. As the Monitor went to press, Microsoft stock had lost 13.7 percent of its value, or $14.55 a share.

The US will not contribute troops to an international peacekeeping force expected to patrol southern Lebanon after an Israeli Army pullout there, Defense Secretary William Cohen said. After meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in Jerusalem, Cohen said he thought the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) would continue to operate after the pullout without any new countries joining it. Israel set up its self-proclaimed "security zone" there in 1985 but has planned to vacate it by July following a stream of casualties.

An estimated 600 people began a 120-mile trek from Charleston, S.C., to the state capital to urge the removal of the Confederate flag from atop the Statehouse. The marchers plan to arrive in Columbia for a demonstration Thursday, when pro-flag supporters also have scheduled a Statehouse rally. The flag's presence over the capitol has become a hot topic this year, with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People calling for a tourism boycott of the state.

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The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to a Tennessee law aimed at helping government officials and the public keep track of anyone ever convicted of a sex crime. The court left intact an appeals court ruling that says the law - which is similar to others in all 50 states and is modeled after the so-called federal "Megan's Law" - does not invade anyone's privacy or violate other constitutionally protected rights.

Massachusetts's Thomas Reilly was expected become to the first attorney general in the nation to apply strict consumer-protection laws to the gun industry. The move, which has been vetted by the state's highest court, would effectively ban cheap "Saturday night specials" and would require handguns sold in the state to include childproof locks, tamper- proof serial numbers, and safety warnings.

In a sign that the economy continued to grow last month, the National Association of Purchasing Management reported that the manufacturing index was at 55.8 percent in March - down from 56.9 the month before, but still well above the reading of 50 that indicates expansion. But the Tempe, Ariz.-based organization also said a related inflation index was at a five-year high. The Commerce Department, meanwhile, reported that construction spending around the US rose - for the fifth straight month - 1.5 percent in February. Expenditures on building projects climbed to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $758.7 billion, an all-time high monthly level.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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