News In Brief
By a 5-to-4 vote, the Supreme Court limited the scope of a landmark environmental law, the 1972 Clean Water Act. The justices ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers lacked authority under the legislation to prevent a group of suburban Chicago localities from building a landfill atop seasonal ponds used by migrating birds. Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote for the majority that Congress didn't intend the Clean Water Act to cover such small bodies of water. The case is the latest in a series of rulings by the high court that have limited the reach of federal laws while expanding the powers of state and local governments.
President-elect Bush stood behind his choice for Labor secretary Monday, amid revelations that Linda Chavez housed and provided money to an illegal immigrant. At the same time, however, Bush said his transition team was reviewing the matter. Chavez has indicated she didn't know Marta Mercado was in the US illegally until the woman had left her home, but Mercado disputed that account. (Story, page 1.)
California's governor proposed a wide range of remedies for the state's beleaguered electricity system. In his annual address to the Legislature, Gray Davis (D) urged the creation of a public agency to buy and build new power plants, and he threatened to seize the facilities of wholesalers who gouge consumers or electrical utilities. He also rejected suggestions that Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric be allowed to slide into bankruptcy. Utility officials said the plan would offer too little short-term relief.
Consumer groups were rallying against pending deals by American and United Airlines, which would put about half of the air-travel market in the hands of the two carriers. Some experts have predicted that would lead to higher ticket prices and reduced customer service. Others were concerned more airlines will be prompted to merge, exacerbating the situation.
Workers for The Seattle Times voted Monday to end their seven-week strike against the newspaper. A union spokesman said the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild ratified a six-year contract by 359 to 116. The agreement increases the share of health insurance paid by the Times, raises wages for some lower-level classifications, and guarantees that all employees who walked out can return to work within six months. Above, Gene Achziger, president of the newspaper guild, applauds the announcement of the strike's end.
Astronomers reported finding the largest structure in the observable universe, a supercluster of quasars and galaxies estimated to be 6.5 billion light- years from Earth. Researchers who presented the study Monday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society said they aren't sure whether the structure is the result of gravity or an erratic effect of the so-called Big Bang. In Earth's sky, the unusually dense supercluster appears just below the constellation of Leo the Lion and covers an area 40 times that of a full moon.
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