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News In Brief

By Robert KilbornJudy Nichols, Noel Paul, and Sara Steindorf / September 13, 2000



The vast majority of Web sites for the US government don't measure up to the Federal Trade Commission's privacy standards for commercial sites, congressional investigators concluded. The study by the General Accounting Office graded 65 federal sites and passed only 3 percent - a result the Clinton administration dismissed as misleading because US agencies are covered by a range of laws, including the Privacy Act. The sites were evaluated for the degree of access users have to change personal information, and the amount of notice given about privacy policies, among other criteria. The report follows on the heels of another one the GAO released Monday, which concluded federal computer security is "fraught with weaknesses" that put critical operations at risk.

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A last-minute snag in a plea bargain for Wen Ho Lee meant that the nuclear scientist was still behind bars - at least until today, the rescheduled date for a hearing on the matter. Neither side in the case would specify what complications had arisen in the plan for Lee to plead guilty to only one count against him, be sentenced to time already served, and cooperate with the FBI. Lee had been scheduled to go on trial in November for mishandling nuclear secrets at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Entertainment industry officials rebutted a report by the Federal Trade Commission that concluded violent, adult-rated products are aggressively marketed to children. The executives maintained that the report made unfair blanket statements. They also unanimously rejected the idea of government regulation of movie marketing. Currently, however, the FTC is not pressing for legislation that would implement such regulation. Instead, it is calling for an expansion of voluntary codes of conduct.

In a decision that could usher in a wave of new appeals for thousands of drug convicts, a federal appeals court reversed a precedent in how such people are sentenced. A panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that juries, not judges, should decide the quantity of drugs involved in a crime when determining what penalty to impose. The justices based their decision on a June ruling by the US Supreme Court that found a defendant was entitled to a jury decision, not a judge's, on whether he or she acted out of racial bias in an alleged hate crime.

In the midst of trying to launch a new campaign style, George W. Bush had to take time out to respond to a flap over a television advertisement criticizing his opponent. In the ad, the word "rats" (below, top frame) flashes, followed by "bureaucrats decide" (bottom frame), a phrase that includes the previous four letters. The Texas governor said the advertisement was coming out of rotation, and added he was convinced no subliminal message was intended. In Florida, meanwhile, Bush adopted a more personal approach to voters and began sounding themes often struck by Democrats, starting with healthcare for seniors.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society