News In Brief

The Supreme Court ruled, 5 to 4, that Congress violated free-speech rights when it sought to protect children from sex-oriented cable channels such as Playboy. As part of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, cable operators that don't fully scramble their signals for nonsubscribers were required to restrict sexually explicit channels to overnight hours. Speaking for the court majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the government failed to prove that the law - which was challenged by Playboy - was the least restrictive means of addressing the situation.

The justices also ruled 5 to 4 that Americans injured in accidents can't sue automakers for not installing air bags, if the vehicles in which they were riding were built before federal regulations required the safety devices. The decision voided the lawsuit of a District of Columbia woman who was involved in an accident under such conditions.

As for cases the Supreme Court will rule on in the future, the justices agreed to decide whether tough federal regulations for curtailing smog and soot can be enforced. The Environmental Protection Agency adopted clean-air standards in 1997 that are among the most contentious regulations issued by the Clinton administration. The standards have been challenged by a large coalition of industry groups and several states, and a federal appeals court ruling blocked enforcement of the standards last year.

With labor markets already tight, demand for workers will climb to record heights this summer, a survey by temporary staffing agency Manpower Inc. projected. Of 16,000 companies polled, 35 percent said they plan to expand their workforces in the third quarter, while only 5 percent anticipated cutbacks. The labor crunch is expected to be especially acute among manufacturers of nondurable goods, such as foods and fuel, and for wholesalers and retailers.

Spacewalking astronauts successfully completed several repair jobs on the exterior of the International Space Station. Working inside bulky spacesuits, the team fixed a crane, assembled a construction boom, and replaced a communications antenna. The shuttle Atlantis docked with the $60 billion station Sunday for five days of maintenance. An estimated 45 such walks will be required to build the space station, set for completion in 2005. Above, astronaut Susan Helms floats in Atlantis's middeck.

Federal investigators began probing why both engines on a chartered commuter plane failed at the same time, causing the aircraft to crash in northeastern Pennsylvania Sunday, killing all 19 people aboard. The breakdown could indicate a systems failure, a representative of the National Transportation Safety Board said. The Jetstream 31, owned by Executive Airlines of Farmingdale, N.Y., was trying to land at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton airport in rain and fog. The NTSB said planes of that model have no significant history of problems.

Engineers investigating the collapse of a pedestrian bridge at a North Carolina motor speedway reported finding corroded steel bands and several three-foot-deep cracks that could have contributed to the snap. The accident injured almost 100 people.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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